In a recent issue (April 2011) of the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science & Technology, authors Prasun K. Roy, Minna Hakkarainen, Indra K. Varma, and Ann-Christine Albertsson discuss the on-going fantasy and reality of “degradable plastics”.
Biodegradable products are not major contributors to methane emissions from landfills, as claimed in the Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T) article.
A North Carolina State University study, published online in the May 27 issue of Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T), leaves the impression that “biobased biodegradable products” potentially generate large amounts of methane when they are landfilled. The Biodegradable Products Institute believes that the headlines and conclusions of this work are inappropriate.
There are two fallacies in the article’s arguments.
Yesterday, the Federal Court of Australia ruled plastic bag company NuPak Australia has engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct related to environmental marketing claims for Goody-brand “degradable” bags.
The court heard the company had claimed its bags were biodegradable and compostable when this was not the case. The court was told its bags also contained a heavy metal in amounts that exceeded the maximum concentration under Australian standards.
NuPak has been ordered to publish corrective notices on its website, send a letter to each customer and contribute $10,000 towards the costs of the ACCC over the proceedings.
Following legal action by the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Nupak Australia is Pty Ltd (‘Nupak’) has consented
to a declaration being made by the Federal Court of Australia that it contravened sections 52 and 53 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (the TPA)
by making false representations and engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct.
As part of the court action, Nupak has consented to a Court declaration that ‘Goody’ brand plastic bags supplied by Nupak did not biodegrade or disintegrate and contained a toxic or hazardous substance, and therefore were not complaint with the Australian Standard.
Nupak has given an undertaking to the Court to refrain from representing that ‘Goody’ brand plastics bags are biodegradable, compostable or
comply with the Australia Standard unless first receiving independent scientific testing that supports the claim.
Nupak has consented to orders that it publish corrective notices in The Advertiser (a daily newspaper from Adelaide, Australia) and also to an order to implement a Trade Practices Compliance and Education Training Program regarding its responsibilities and obligations under Australian law.
Nupak has paid a contribution towards the ACCC’s costs of instituting the proceedings.
In a written statement, the Biodegradable Products Institute commented:
“We are glad to see that manufacturer’s unsupported claims are recognized as misleading. We hope to see more of this in the future, in response to the growing number of these claims around the globe.
So-called ‘oxo-degradable’ plastic bags used by major UK supermarkets do not break down as quickly as believed and may not be as environmentally-friendly as they sound, according a recently published report by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The 104-page study into ”oxo-degradable” plastics, often labelled as degradable or biodegradable, found there was uncertainty about their impact on the natural environment.
Among the key findings:
(The) incorporation of additives into petroleum-based plastics that cause those plastics to undergo accelerated degradation does not improve their environmental impact and potentially gives rise to certain negative effects.
Oxo-degradable plastics are not compostable, according to established international standards EN13432 and ASTM D6400. Oxo-degradable plastics should not be included in waste going for composting, because the plastic fragments remaining after the composting process might adversely affect the quality and saleability of the compost.
It is thought that labelling the oxo-degradable plastics as biodegradable can lead to confusion on the part of consumers, who may assume that ‘biodegradable plastics‘ are compostable. This may lead to contamination of the composting waste-stream with oxo-degradable plastics.
In the wake of the study funded by DEFRA, ministers called on the industry not to claim the plastics were better for the environment than more conventional ones.
Writing in the November/December issue of bioplastics MAGAZINE, a global trade publication, Dr. Gerald Scott, long time proponent of oxo-biodegradable technologies and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association, stated that products made with oxo-bioedgradable additive technologies are not suitable to be landfilled or composted.
Let us be clear…that oxo-biodegradable plastic is not normally marketed for composting, and it is not designed for anaerobic digestion nor for degradation deep in landfill…