"The problem is that people are claiming that all you do is put in an additive into the plastics and the material will magically disappear," said Narayan. "Biodegradable is a misused and abused term. What we need is an end-of-life strategy."
Still, he acknowledged that the pubic relations' strength of the word biodegradability carries a lot of weight. "All of this biodegradable stuff sounds good. The public loves it! But, I ask, in what environment will this degrade? Define environment. The word 'biodegradable' means nothing."
According to Narayan, too much flagrant "green washing" is occurring, with companies announcing eco-claims for the products that cannot be backed up with facts. "There are so many misleading biodegradable claims in the marketplace. In high school you'd be failed for creating a chart like this," he said as he held up a chart listing some of what he called the so-called facts of biodegradability.
Narayan argued that the industry should focus more of its energy on recycling and waste-to-energy conversion, saying these are "the best use of plastics." He continued, "Why is replacing petro-carbon with bio-carbon better? Carbon is carbon. There is organic carbon and inorganic carbon. It takes 10 years to turn an inorganic carbon into an organic carbon through biodegradability." —Clare Goldsberry