Joint Statement on OWS study

We find it surprising that some people are still proposing yet more studies to prove oxo-biodegradability. Oxo-biodegradable plastics are polymers designed to convert automatically into biodegradable materials at the end of their useful life.

If oxo-biodegradability did not exist, why would the European Standards authority (CEN) have defined it as “degradation resulting from oxidative and cell-mediated phenomena, either simultaneously or successively?”

If oxo-biodegradable plastics merely fragmented, why would the American British and French Standards organisations include tests to prove biodegradation in ASTM D6954, BS 8472, and AC T51-808?

Anyone who says “there is no evidence” cannot have read the extensive peer-reviewed scientific bibliography on the subject, written over the past 15 years by polymer scientists in the UK, US, France, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Canada, Australia and Brazil. Further, any reputable supplier of oxo-biodegradable plastic technology will be expected to provide independent evidence to its customers to prove degradation, biodegradation, and non-toxicity of its products.

Anyone who refers to EN13432 as the Standard by which biodegradability of plastics should be judged has not read clause 1 of that Standard which makes it clear that it applies to biodegradation in the special conditions found in industrial composting or anaerobic digestion – and further that it “does not take into account packaging waste which may end up in the environment through uncontrolled means, i.e. as litter.” It was to address this very problem that oxo-biodegradable plastics were developed.

It is not surprising that oxo-biodegradable technology is still being questioned, because the companies marketing bio-based “compostable” plastics have spent millions on PR campaigns against it and have even promoted European legislation to try to give their own product an unfair advantage in the marketplace as compared with oxo-biodegradable plastics. They mistakenly think that oxo-biodegradable plastic is a threat to their market share, but it is designed for a completely different purpose.

Their latest effort (via their bioplastics group within Plastics Europe) is to promote a study by Organic Waste Systems, Belgium, but OWS as their name implies are experts in bio-based “compostable” plastics and derive most of their income from the companies who supply and use that technology. They are not experts in oxo-biodegradable technology, and it would also be difficult to accept them as independent. They produced a report in June 2013 which has been heavily criticised by Professor Jacques Lemaire, one of the world’s leading experts in oxo-biodegradable technology.

Anyone who wishes to know about oxo-biodegradable technology should consult the international centres of excellence in that subject. They are the University Blaise Pascal in France, the University of Pisa in Italy, the Technical Research Institute of Sweden and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, the LGAI Technological Centre (Eurofins) S.A in Spain, and the Federal Institute for Education, Science and Technology in Brazil.