A recent commentary in Cosmos magazine, an online scientific publication, on this study noted, “Harrison and colleagues found that many studies used only laboratory tests to predict how particular plastics would behave in the open ocean. There was no agreement across the board on standards to define biodegradability, nor on consistent testing methods.”
Another problem with biodegradable plastic bags and wraps is that, according to the Harrison research, “existing biodegradability standards and test methods for aquatic environments do not involve toxicity testing or account for the potentially adverse ecological impacts of carrier bags, plastic additives, polymer degradation products or small (microscopic) plastic particles that can arise via fragmentation.”
Andrew Masterson, editor of Cosmos, noted at the end of his report that “plugging these gaps in research, and doing so as soon as possible, should be a priority . . . to avoid the nightmare scenario in which trying to remove one environmental pollutant results in the creation of a worse one.”
As I’ve often said, the law of unintended consequences is always in play, and while it’s difficult to predict all outcomes via computer modeling, just being aware of the potential negative impact may be helpful.
In spite of Novolex’s Bag-2-Bag recycling program and promotion, Cook admits that the company wins some battles and loses others. “But we try to say we have a better solution than outright bans,” he said.
“The message we want to send is that plastics are 100% recyclable, and the more we can encourage and promote and make it easier to recycle, the better,” added Cook. “With decisions being made to increase the amount of recycled content, our intent is to help increase those percentages. We’ll step up to meet those challenges as far as overall recycled content is concerned.”