The UK-based Oxo-Biodegradable Plastics Association (OPA) has described a recent report by Eunomia Consultants for the EU Commission on the impact of the use of oxo-biodegradable (OBP) plastic carrier bags on the environment, as “positive”.
In its report, Eunomia stated that the debate around the biodegradability of OBP plastic was not finalised yet.
"But [the debate] should move forward from the assertion that OBP plastics merely fragment, towards confirming whether the timeframes observed for total biodegradation are acceptable from an environmental point of view and whether this is likely to take place in natural environments,” the report added.
Speaking to PNE, the OPA said that this was "the end of the myth about oxo-fragmentable plastics.”
The association said it is now looking forward to working with the EU Commission to answer some remaining questions.
“They are not easy, but we are confident that we and our scientific advisers can satisfy the Commission on these points,” the OPA told PNE.
The OPA also agreed with Eunomia findings that the conditions present during the abiotic stage of degradation - which in most studies is simulated by some form of accelerated pre-treatment - will have "a significant impact on the materials' ability to subsequently biodegrade.”
“From the information studied, the authors of this [Eunomia] report can believe that it is possible for a OBP plastic to fully mineralise in an open environment, with the prodegradant additives encouraging this action, and thus the polymers and entrained substances can be assimilated into the natural environment,” the London-based association added.
In OBP, a very small amount of pro-degradant additive is put into the manufacturing process of ordinary plastic. The additive, according to the OPA, breaks the molecular chains in the polymer, and at the end of its useful life the product degrades and then biodegrades on land and in the oceans, so that it will not lie or float around for decades.
The Association said that it will be making a detailed submission to the European Commission on the Eunomia report.