“Oxo-biodegradable films have more PR value than environmental value”

Speaking at the Emballage show in Paris last week, Hélios Ruiz, marketing director for Sealed Air’s European shrink packaging business, was quoted packagingnews.co.uk for saying oxo-biodegradable films had more value as a PR message than as a tool to bring real environmental benefits.

“Oxo-biodegradable film is not the answer. You need light and oxygen for it to biodegrade but in landfill there is neither.”

Ruiz goes is quoted as saying that Sealed Air has pledged to focus its green efforts on lightweighting its films as a solution to environmental issues.  “We are not going into biodegradable films, but focusing on source reduction;” he said. “We would rather make an impact on reducing the materials than have a communications story.”

The article summarizes that Sealed Air has become the latest major packaging player to express doubts over biodegradable plastics.

Our take is that manufacturers like Sealed Air are correctly focusing on source reduction, then considering the likely disposal method used by consumers. If left-over plastics packaging films remain dry, clean and can be economically taken to a recycling facility, then recycling is a much better option, then landfilling.

In this context, biodegradable plastics, such as bubble wrap, don’t make much sense, especially when they are landfilled.

However, what if you had a fast food restaurant with bins mixed with wet paper and food-soiled plastic utensils, plates and cups?  In that context, recycling is not possible.

Certified compostable plastics, on the other hand, are ideally suited for these applications where small amounts of biodegradable plastics can safely biodegrade in a professionally managed composting facility.  Tons of otherwise worthless trash is diverted from the landfill, and the organics are recycled back into a higher purpose (like humus or soil amendments).