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European recyclers say degradable plastics are a threat to recyclers

By: Anthony Clark
PRW

November 28, 2013

Biodegradable and oxo-degradable plastics are unwelcome addition to the waste stream and damage the recycling process, according to key players in the European plastics recycling industry.

"If I mix oxo-degradable plastics – even at 1 or 2 percent – into my reprocessing I cannot predict the quality of my finished product," said Ton Emans, president of Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE). "If I make a film out of it, its properties aren't predictable. Oxo-biodegradable plastics have a negative impact on quality.

"I'm absolutely against oxo-biodegradable plastic – I think it is totally wrong."

Emans was equally as damning of biodegradable plastics. "They are just as damaging [to the recycling process] at similarly low rates. Ideally, don't use these materials but if you do they must be kept separate," added Emans.

"With biodegradable plastics you really need to think about one thing – you need to have an end-of-life solution in place in your cities and if that's not in place they why would you use it? Not everybody has a garden, not everyone can put it in with the compost."

Joan Marc Simon, executive director of Zero Waste Europe, agreed with Emans, adding: "From the collection point of view, in which bin does oxo-degradable plastic belong? Does it go with the recyclables, where it will cause problems, does it go with compostables, where it will also cause problems, or does it go in the residuals bin – a collection we should be looking to reduce?

"So tell me, in which bin should it go?

"The recyclers don't want it in the recycling bin and the organic managers don't want it in the compostables bin. Do we want a bin solely for oxo-biodegradables?

"Collecting these materials in the wrong waste bin creates a mess," he added.

Guaranteeing the quality of plastic destined for recycling is important for the growth of the sector, said Simon. "Including oxo-degradable plastics is a real problem. And if we don't tackle this problem it will really contaminate your waste stream.

"We need urgent action on oxo-degradables and we need a discussion on the collection of biodegradables."