Why oxo-degradable plastics are facing tough criticism

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

You may have read a previous blog of ours on the terms ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’, deciphering what those terms really mean for the consumer. Another term sparking debate is ‘oxo-degradable’, as people claim this material is misleading.

You may be one of the many asking what oxo-degradable plastic is, and whether it breaks down in the open environment.

Oxo-degradable plastics quickly fragment into smaller pieces (microplastics), but the issue is they don’t break down at the molecular or polymer level like biodegradable and compostable plastics. Instead, the microplastics are left in the environment indefinitely until they eventually fully break down. This means consumers often focus on the ‘degradable’ part, and wrongly assume the product can be composted.

Oxo-degradable plastics are unable to be composted, which worsens confusion among consumers, and even retailers, who interpret them as biodegradable.

You may be asking why this matters so much.

The danger is that there persists a lack of understanding of how to differentiate biodegradable or compostable plastic from the rest. This then either leads to the contamination of the waste stream, or especially in the case of oxo-degradable plastic, the pollution of plastic in the environment. As we know, the fragments of plastic left behind by oxo-degradable plastics can be swallowed by wildlife as well as simply exacerbate the issue of littering.

That is why our very own Technical Director, Dr. Andrew Gill, signed the open letter last year to government, calling for a ban on oxo-degradable plastic. We are proud of Floreon because we take great care to make sure our material has only a positive environmental impact, and that everyone we work with understands the end-of-life options completely.

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