27 October 2020 by James Langley

WRAP clarifies stance on degradable plastics PAS

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) says its presence on the steering committee of a new specification (PAS) for measuring the biodegradability of polyolefins should not be taken as an endorsement of the standard.

The British Standards Institution (BSI) specification, PAS9017, was sponsored by a company which produces biodegradable and compostable plastics and was published earlier this month.

On 1 October the BSI published a new specification for measuring the biodegradability of polyolefins (picture: Shutterstock)

Last week, more than 40 organisations called for a ban on plastics containing additives to make them degrade in response to the standard’s publication (see letsrecycle.com story).

In a statement given to letsrecycle.com yesterday (26 October), WRAP said: “WRAP believes that Publicly Available Specifications (PAS) are helpful to industry by defining categories of products and helping to drive quality and support innovation. With any PAS it is important to understand its parameters.

“WRAP was represented on the steering group for the development of PAS 9017 ‘Biodegradation of polyolefins in an open-air terrestrial environment’ and the chance to make representations about issues it could foresee relating to the PAS.

“WRAP is awaiting some further information with regards to these representations and at this time should clarify that WRAP being on the steering committee should not be taken as an endorsement of the PAS.”

Environments

WRAP told letsrecycle.com the PAS did not cover soil, fresh water or marine environments, so it offered no advantage if plastic made its way to those places.

“WRAP being on the steering committee should not be taken as an endorsement of the PAS”

WRAP

The use of the term ‘biodegradable’ should be avoided without being clear on the environment that the biodegradability applies to and being clear about the timescale, WRAP said. The time allowed for biodegradation to be completed is two years.

WRAP said there was a danger that a claim of biodegradability could encourage littering, and so the communication of this property needs to be carefully thought through.

The PAS does not include evidence to validate the test methods proposed and assure the avoidance of microplastics during any stage of the decomposition process, WRAP said. The resources charity said it had seen evidence of this through the steering committee, but it needed be published alongside the PAS.

And, WRAP said the PAS did not cover the recyclability of biodegradable plastics and such claims needed to be substantiated.

Littering

However, WRAP also said it was keen to explore plastics technologies which had no ‘negative impact’ on the environment as a solution to the problem of littering.

It said: “Littering is a real issue, which will be tackled in part by initiatives such as deposit return schemes and awareness campaigns. However, these will not solve the issue entirely.

“There are also cases where plastics items are used and may remain in the environment for some time. Tree guards for saplings may be example of this.

“WRAP is keen to encourage evidence led developments in plastics technologies which have no negative impact on the ability for plastic to be effectively recycled and have no negative impacts to the natural environment.

“However, it is incumbent upon those developing technologies to demonstrate this.”

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