In an article published on September 19, 2017, the industry association Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) reported that degradable plastics entering the traditional plastic waste stream negatively impact the functionality of recycled plastics. A test demonstrated that substances used in degradable plastics (e.g. starch, polylactide (PLA) and/or polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT)) led to holes and specks in film produced from recycled plastic waste. Therefore, PRE calls for “separate streams not only for bio-waste but also degradable plastics in order to make sure that degradable plastics do not enter waste streams of conventional plastics” and thus “avoid putting in jeopardy the efforts of making plastics more circular.”

The industry association European Bioplastics (EUBP) echoed PRE’s call for separate recycling streams in a press release published on September 21, 2017. EUBP highlighted that biodegradable plastics can help “reduce contamination of mechanical recycling streams by facilitating separate collection of biowaste and therefore diverting organic waste from other recycling streams.” Contrasting PRE’s analysis, EUBP cited a recent study by the University of Wageningen, the Netherlands, finding “no negative effects on the properties of recycled film products containing starch film and PLA film recyclates” at current levels of biodegradable plastics in mechanical recycling streams. Further, EUBP noted that “contamination of organic waste streams by misthrows of non-biodegradable plastics is high and constitutes a real problem for composting facilities and negatively affects the quality of compost.”

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PRE (September 15, 2017). “Recycled film quality negatively affected by degradable plastics from Southern Europe.

Plastics News Europe (September 19, 2017). “European recycled film quality impacted by degradable plastics.

EUBP (September 21, 2017). “Biodegradable plastics needed to increase recycling efficiency.