This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
additives feature | Oxo-degradable debate

The case against oxo-degradables Berlin-based trade association European Bioplastics represents the interests of Europe’s bioplastics industry. It has members from the agricultural feed- stock, chemical and plastics industries, as well as industrial users and recycling companies. A spokesper- son says:


Novamont’s Mater-Bi materials are certified under the harmonized European standard EN 13432 on biodegradable and composta- ble packaging and many grades carry the ‘OK compost’ conformity mark

European Bioplastics strongly supports an efficient use of resources and this means they should either be mechanically recyclable or organically recyclable. Oxo-fragmentable materials are none of the above,

and therefore we do not see benefits that would create a long-term market for these materials. Even worse, their metal additives and their tendency to disintegrate into tiny particles that stay in the environment make them an environmental hazard. Partial and incomplete imitation of bioplastics does not make a material a bioplastic. There are no special regions or applications where

oxo-fragmentable materials should be used, as the meaningfulness of oxo-fragmentable plastics altogeth- er is disputable. However, several countries like Pakistan, UAE, etc that have pollution problems, but no efficient waste management infrastructure, have banned all plastics other than oxo-fragmentable plastics. This is a short-sighted action, obviously misled by promises of “magical waste-management alterna- tives.” If a mechanically recyclable material is the goal, oxo-

fragmentable plastics should not be used, as recyclers have detected processing problems in an increasing number of cases. Oxo-fragmentable plastics pose a contamination

threat to recycling streams of conventional mass plastics. Recyclers, for example, fear for the quality (stability, colour, etc) of the recyclate. Oxo-fragmentable products incorporate additives

which affect their chemical stability. They bring their degradation additives to the recyclate feedstock. As a consequence, the recyclates may be destabilised, which

will hinder acceptance and lead to reduced value. When it comes to composting, oxo-fragmentable

plastics are not fit for this end-of-life option. They just do not fulfil the criteria laid out in the EN 13432 or similar standards. Due to misleading advertising – oxo- fragmentable materials are often also advertised as biodegradable or oxo-biodegradable – contamination of composting streams could be the result, as consumers or, in a B2B context, even composters put these materials on one level with truly biodegradable and certified compostable bioplastics. Another highly problematic issue when it comes to

marketing is the advertisement of oxo-fragmentable plastics as a “solution for pollution.” In the view of European Bioplastics such statements amount to a “licence to litter”, as this kind of marketing strengthens the consumer-impression to “not need to care so much, because the material just disappears wherever I drop it.” End–of-life options always need to be advertised in

an accurate and transparent way – clear recovery options should be named. Furthering littering by playing in the hands of a behavioural problem of consumers is the worst kind of greenwashing. Is there a need for standards and norms to be

modified to take better account of the properties of plastics containing oxo-degradable additives? Not simply a testing method, but a full-fledged standard with thresholds and respective pass / fail criteria, etc. would indeed help to make transparent what these materials can and what they cannot do. A truly useful standard would need to include a long-term eco-toxicity test and provide proof that no tiny fragments are left in the environment.

Francesco Degli Innocenti is the ecology of products

and environmental communication manager at Novamont, the producer of Mater-Bi compostable materials, which are mostly derived from corn starch. An expert in standardization, he chose to address one question in particular, regarding standards and norms. He says:

’’ ‘‘ 36 COMPOUNDING WORLD | August 2013

There is controversy concerning the standardiza- tion approach to be used in the environmental

sector. Environmental standards are characterization methods that are aimed to solve an environmental problem. The logic to be followed is the following: (1) identify the problem (eg: dioxin emission from incinera- tors); (2) define how to measure it (eg: a method to measure dioxin in smokestack) (3) define limits of acceptability (eg: dioxin concentration must be below x). For compostable plastics this approach was indeed

followed. Plastics are excluded from composting unless they can be proven to be “compostable.” Compostable means: biodegradable, disintegrable, with no ecotoxic

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74