The Bio-Based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA) has announced it is one of over 150 companies endorsing a call from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to ban oxo-degradable plastic packaging.
According to BBIA, oxo-degradable plastic packaging, including carrier bags, is often marketed as a solution to plastic pollution, with claims that such plastics degrade into harmless residues within a period ranging from a few months to several years.
However, as outlined in a new statement by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative, the Association said significant evidence indicates that oxo-degradable plastics do not degrade into harmless residues, but instead fragment into ‘tiny pieces’ of plastic and contribute to microplastic pollution.
Rob Opsomer, lead for systemic initiatives at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, explaied: “The available evidence overwhelmingly suggests oxo-degradable plastics do not achieve what their producers claim and instead contribute to microplastic pollution. In addition, these materials are not suited for effective long-term reuse, recycling at scale or composting, meaning they cannot be part of a circular economy.”
The circular economy charity’s New Plastics Economy initiative has published a statement calling for a ban on oxo-degradable plastic packaging. Signatories include BBIA, M&S, PepsiCo, Unilever, Veolia, British Plastics Federation Recycling Group, Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association, Packaging South Africa, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and ten Members of the European Parliament.
In total, over 150 organisations, including businesses representing every step of the plastics supply chain, industry associations, NGOs, scientists, and elected officials have endorsed the statement calling for global action to avoid widescale environmental risk.
“Using oxo-degradable additives is not a solution for litter. Their use in waste management systems will likely cause negative outcomes for the environment and communities,” said Erin Simon, director of sustainability research and development, World Wildlife Fund.
“When public policy supports the cascading use of materials – systems where materials get reused over and over, this strengthens economies and drives the development of smarter materials management systems. This leads to wins for both the environment and society.”
BBIA said, as a result of the significant body of evidence raising concerns about the potential negative impacts of plastic fragments from oxo-degradable plastics, an increasing number of companies and governments have started to take action to restrict their use, in particular in Europe. For example, in the UK retailers such as Tesco and the Co-operative stopped the use of oxo-degradable plastics in their carrier bags. And, the organisation said France banned the use of oxo-degradable plastics altogether in 2015.
However, oxo-degradable plastics are still produced in many European countries, including the UK, and marketed across the world as safely biodegradable, the Association explains.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative, together with the signing organisations, supports innovation that designs out waste and pollution, and keeps products and materials in high-value use in line with the principles of a circular economy.