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Opposition to EUpc Call to Ban Oxo-Biodegradable Plastics

Released: 23/09/2013 12:23:00
Read 3544 times

Michael F. Stephens, Technical Director of Symphony Environmental Technologies Plc and Technical Adviser to the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association, defends oxo-biodegradable plastics in a statement.

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"The call by EUpc to ban oxo-biodegradable plastic is unfounded and unreasonable.  It is understandable that recyclers and converters should be against bio-based “compostable” plastics (which would certainly compromise an oil-based plastic recyclate), but as they do not attack that type of plastic they would appear to have a hidden agenda.

There is no credible scientific evidence to support their position on oxo-biodegradable plastic, and it is ridiculous to suggest that the inclusion of 2% oxo-biodegradable plastic (0.02% oxo-biodegradable masterbatch) could produce a visible effect on the recyclate. There is no visible difference between a conventional plastic and an oxo-biodegradable plastic -  and that is one of its many virtues.

There is an abundance of independent evidence that oxo-biodegradable plastics can be successfully recycled in the conventional plastic waste stream, most recently the work done by Dr. Andy Roediger at Stellenbosch.  See also the Position-paper on Recycling on the website of the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association (OPA) www.biodeg.org.

Not only do the scientific reports demonstrate that the EuPC leadership are wrong, but all the oxo-biodegradable carrier bags collected by Coop and Tesco in the U.K. were seamlessly incorporated into the conventional plastic waste stream. We would be pleased to conduct trials with recyclers to confirm that they can safely include plastic materials containing oxo-biodegradable technology into their existing plastic waste stream.

However, the EuPC leadership do not seem to want a dialogue with the oxo-biodegradable industry – reinforcing our view that they have a hidden agenda.  It is difficult to see how this can benefit their members, as oxo-biodegradability offers them a defence against allegations that their plastic products could lie or float around in the environment for many decades if not collected. There is nothing wrong with plastic, but it does need to be brought up to date.

Another indication of a hidden agenda is that EuPC insist on describing oxo-biodegradable plastic as “oxo-fragmentable” but they know very well that it does not just fragment, but converts at the end of its useful life in the presence of oxygen into a biodegradable material which is no longer a plastic.

Biodegradation of abiotically-degraded polymer material has been studied in detail by many scientists and published in peer-reviewed papers, most recently at the Technical Research Institute of Sweden and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.  A report of the work was published in Vol 96 of the journal of Polymer Degradation & Stability (2011) at pages 919-928, which shows 91% biodegradation in a soil environment within 24 months.

These scientific papers form the basis for Standards published by BSi (8472), ASTM D6954 (USA), and AFNOR Accord T51-808 (France) to measure oxo-biodegradability. In addition, sixteen nations globally have legislated to authorise oxo-biodegradable packaging materials and eight (with a combined population of 330 million people) have already made it mandatory to use oxo-biodegradable technology.

Life-cycle Assessments conducted by Intertek, and published on the OPA website show that oxo-biodegradable plastic bags have better environmental credentials than conventional plastic, bio-based “compostable” plastic, or paper."

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