Debate over benefits of oxo-degradable carrier bags rages on in Europe: Page 2 of 2

Additionally, because of the rules of industrial composting facilities—and depending on the method of composting—plastic materials that are considered biodegradable are not candidates for compostability because the material does not fully degrade. Compost with pieces of plastic in it is generally not acceptable, which is why many composting facilities won’t take any materials except purely organic items such as food and yard waste.

Oxo-degradable additives were developed specifically to solve the problem of plastics left in the open environment by litterbugs. Plastics containing oxo-degradable additives are not meant for materials going to landfills, as nothing degrades in a sanitary landfill.

The report stated that there is “currently insufficient evidence to provide assurance that oxo-degradable plastic, including plastic carrier bags, will biodegrade in the marine environment within a reasonable time” (whatever that is supposed to be).

While the report acknowledges that there is “general agreement” among both the scientific community and industry that oxidizing additives will “accelerate the fragmentation of traditional polymers” in open environments, none of these environments have documented a “full biodegradation process.” The experiments were conducted in too short a time span to demonstrate a full biodegradation process, which has resulted in inconclusive evidence to confirm that the “fragmentation is sufficiently rapid and leads to a reduced molecular weight that allows subsequent biodegradation taking place within a reasonable timeframe.”

What the report did conclude, however, was that the use of oxo-degradable additives might encourage littering. “Even though no conclusive information is currently available on the disposal or littering of plastic according to the type of plastic, or on the influence of marketing oxo-degradable plastic on the disposal behavior of consumers, presenting oxo-degradable plastic as the solution for plastic waste in the environment may influence littering behavior by making it more likely that it is discarded inappropriately,” said the report.

This wouldn’t be true, however, for specific products including “oxo-degradable products such as agricultural use for weed control in crops. In those cases, the oxo-degradable plastic sheeting is left to degrade in the fields.

The conclusion of the report states that that “it is undisputed that oxo-degradable plastic, including plastic carrier bags, may degrade quicker in the open environment than conventional plastic. However, there is no evidence that oxo-degradable plastic will subsequently fully biodegrade in a reasonable time in the open environment, in landfills or in the marine environment.”

Again, nothing biodegrades in a sanitary landfill, so that should not have even been a consideration when evaluating oxo-degradable material, as it is not meant to go to landfills. And it is not meant to go into the recycling waste stream. It is one yeoman’s effort to solve the problem of plastic littering by human beings who really don’t care much about the environment.

The Oxo-Biodegradable Plastics Federation has issued a rebuttal to this report. Read it here.

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