Materials

Coalition calls on government to implement ‘total ban’ on oxodegradables

A coalition of trade organisations has written to the Environment Secretary George Eustice pressing for a ‘total ban’ on oxodegradable plastics.

An image of plastic bags

The open letter written to the government on 1 June urges ‘now is the time to act’ as the UK revises its legislation surrounding plastic packaging as it prepares to leave the EU.

The signatories include the Environmental Services Association (ESA), Greenpeace, RECOUP, the Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA), A Plastic Planet, Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA), REA and the Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA).

Whilst the EU’s Single Use Plastics Directive prohibits the placing on the market of single-use plastic products made from oxodegradable plastic, the coalition seeks assurance that this commitment will be upheld by the UK Government once it leaves the EU at the end of the year

Proponents of oxodegradable plastic packaging say it is a solution to plastic pollution, with claims that the additives in this form of plastic make items degrade into harmless residues over a period of a few months to a few years.

However, the signatories refute the claim that ‘additives transform polyolefin plastics into biodegradable plastics’, saying instead that the process results in the ‘fragmentation and formation of microplastics’, thereby ‘worsening’ the global problem of plastic pollution.

The coalition points to tests undertaken by the University of Plymouth in 2019 that found that plastic bags that claimed to be “degradable” due to the oxo additives in them, remained intact in the sea and in soil after three years.

Led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, calls were made in 2017 by 150 organisations globally for oxodegradables, sometimes referred to as ‘oxo biodegradable’, ‘oxo fragmentable’ and ‘bio-assimilable’, to be banned.

Moreover, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) also called for its elimination in June 2019 as part of its eight plastic items to be removed from circulation by the end of 2020 ‘wherever possible’.

Those tackling plastic contamination hope that the Environment Bill, which is delayed currently after its second reading due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will deliver the legislation to fight plastic pollution.

You can read the full letter from the trade organisations regarding oxodegradable plastics here.