On April 24, 2017 the trade association European Bioplastics (EUBP) published an article discussing the report entitled “The impact of the use of ‘oxo-degradable’ plastic on the environment,” prepared by the environmental consultancy Eunomia upon request by the European Commission (EC). Oxo-degradable plastics are conventional plastics containing special additives designed to promote the oxidation of the product, resulting in its brittleness and fragmentation into small pieces, but uncertain to ensure a complete degradation or mineralization.
According to EUBP, the Eunomia report, released in August 2016, is “very clear in concluding that oxo-degradable plastics should not be allowed to be sold in Europe.” The report concluded that there is currently insufficient evidence that the oxo-degradable plastics “biodegrade fully or within reasonable time,” and highlighted that the pro-oxidant additives could potentially cause toxic effects in soil. Another major problem concerns the potential contamination of recycled products, as the current technology does not allow easily separating oxo-degradable plastics from conventional plastics in the waste streams. The report stated that oxo-degradable plastics can “significantly impair the physical qualities and service life of the recycled product.”
EUBP further pointed out that currently there is a lack of suitable certification in Europe allowing to confirm the appropriate performance of oxo-degradable plastics. Further, the association pointed to the “potential damage to the reputation and image of truly biodegradable plastics.” Based on the above, EUBP called “on the European Commission to suspend the production, sale and use of oxo-degradable plastics in Europe until appropriate standards, standardized regulation of nomenclature, and suitable certification schemes are available.”
Concerns about the potential environmental harm of oxo-degradable plastics have been voiced previously, for example by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) (FPF reported). In 2014, France proposed a ban on oxo-degradable plastics (FPF reported).
EUBP (April 24, 2017). “New report calls to suspend the use of ‘oxo-degradable’ plastics.”
EC (2016). “The impact of the use of ‘oxo-degradable’ plastic on the environment.” KH-02-16-983-EN-N doi:10.2779/992559