New White Paper Detangles Degradables

Nothing has become a lightning rod for harsh environmental criticism more than “oxo-degradable” plastics. To help understand why something so seemingly “good” has become so closely scrutinized, you might want to download and read through the SPI Bioplastic Council Bioplastics Position Paper on OXO-Biodegradable Plastic from the Society of Plastics Industry (SPI) Bioplastics Council. (republished by permission of the SPI).

Here are some sample conclusions from the white paper that are very useful in understanding the environmental issues surrounding oxo-degradables:

About the term “oxo” degradable…

…terms such as ‘biodegradable in landfills,’ ‘oxo-biodegradable,’ etc. without reference to existing standard certifications (are) misleading, and as such not reproducible and verifiable. Under these conditions the term “oxo-biodegradable”, more specifically biodegradation in general, lacks meaning and is not supported by any recognized industry certifications or third-party peer reviewed scientific data.

About the benefits of “fragmentation”…

Fragmentation of “oxo-biodegradable” plastics is not the result of a biodegradation process but rather the result of a chemical reaction. The resulting fragments will remain in the environment. Fragmentation is not a solution to the waste problem, but rather the conversion of visible contaminants (such as bags) into invisible contaminants (plastic fragments).

About benefits of “litter prevention”…

Long standing efforts for the prevention of littering could actually be damaged by giving users of plastic items (oxo degradables) the impression that those items might vanish harmlessly if discarded in the environment.

About the impact on composting…

Collection and recovery schemes for organic waste are likely to suffer from the use of oxo-fragmentable materials, as these materials are reported to not meet the requirements of organic recovery.

About the impact on plastics recycling…

As a consequence the recyclates may be destabilized (by oxo-degradables), which will hinder acceptance and lead to reduced value (of recycled plastics).

The white paper is an essential read for better understanding the issues surrounding “degradable” plastics, and separating greenwashing claims from real environmental solutions.

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