Plastic and Environmental Associations Call for a Ban on Oxo Biodegradables
The Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA), RECOUP, FPA, ESA and Greenpeace are some of the signatories that wrote an open letter to DEFRA secretary George Eustice, asking him to consider banning the use, sale and distribution in the UK of conventional non-biodegradable plastics containing additives, which are meant to accelerate the fragmentation of plastics into microplastics.
“Such plastics are variously known as ‘oxo degradable’, ‘oxo biodegradable’, ‘oxo fragmentable’, ‘bio-assimilable’”. The associations pointed out that the UK voted for the European Single Use Plastics Directive, which includes the clause at Article 5 that “Member States shall prohibit the placing on the market of the single-use plastic products listed in Part B of the Annex and of products made from oxo-degradable plastic.”
The letter cites evidence from DEFRA and the EU which it says refutes the claim that oxodegradable additives can transform polyolefin plastics into biodegradable plastics, as they merely accelerate the fragmentation of plastics into microplastics. Further evidence from the University of Plymouth in 2019 found that oxodegradable bags actually remained intact in the sea and soil after three years.
The letter read: “Whilst the UK has left the EU we have retained the ambition to achieve at least the equivalent of European environmental norms. At the same time, were the UK to allow these plastics, anything containing them or packaged in them could not be exported to EU markets.”
The associations say its important to implement the ban now as the UK is in the process of revising legislation on the use of plastic packaging. “Overwhelming scientific evidence, including research commissioned by DEFRA and the EU, has demonstrated beyond doubt that the claims these additives transform polyolefin plastics into biodegradable plastics are unfounded. It is scientifically well-known that all polyolefin plastics are naturally prone to oxidation under environmental conditions (aging). Such oxidation ultimately leads to fragmentation and formation of microplastics, which build up in oceans and in soil.”