By: Stephen Downer
July 31, 2014
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s three biggest polyethylene suppliers have denounced oxo-biodegradable technology in a letter to the country’s national association of supermarkets and departmental stores.
“We consider that the use of degrading additives is not a sustainable way of tackling this issue [of waste management], as it has not been proven indisputably that materials containing such [biodegrading] additives really do biodegrade in landfills or can be recycled.
“In other words, degrading additives do not add value to plastic waste, including polyethylene waste,” the letter from Braskem Idesa SAPI, Dow Química Mexicana SA de CV and Pemex Petroquímica stated.
Cleantho de Paiva Leite Filho, at the time Braskem Idesa’s commercial and institutional relations director, Paula Sans Quiros, Dow’s commercial director in Mexico for the company’s performance and specialty plastics, and Carlos Pani Espinosa, Pemex Química’s deputy commercial director, signed the letter.
It was sent to Vicente Yáñez Solloa, executive director of ANTAD (Asociación Nacional de Tiendas de Autoservicio y Departamentales AC), dated May 27.
In response, Symphony Environmental Technologies plc, of Borehamwood, England, one of the world’s largest oxo-biodegradable technology companies, sent its technical director, Michael Stephens, to Mexico in late July to talk to ANTAD.
“I am visiting other trade associations and our customers to ensure that this misleading letter does not upset them,” Stephens told Plastics News. “Symphony sells the oxo-biodegradable technology in 97 countries worldwide and Mexico is one of the major regions adopting this technology.”
In the letter, the trio of PE suppliers said they had written to ANTAD after becoming aware that some of the association’s members had been specifying the use of oxo-biodegradable additives in their PE shopping bags and packaging.
“We believe that, together with the use of said additives, a message is being spread that [oxo-biodegradable technology] is environment-friendly, which confuses and deceives society and consumers, inducing them to dispose of waste inadequately, thus damaging the environment and efforts to recycle the material,” the letter’s authors wrote.
They added that on April 16 the European parliament voted in favor of modifying directive 94/62/EC on packaging waste and which urged member countries to “drastically reduce materials that contain oxo-biodegradables to the point where they are eliminated altogether.”
Symphony’s Stephens wrote that the Braskem Idesa-Dow-Pemex trio’s letter “purported to claim that oxo-biodegradable technology was going to be banned in the European Union. This is completely untrue and I immediately flew from the U.K. to Mexico to correct this mischievous misinformation,” Stephens said. “ANTAD distributed the letter and I have visited them this week. I showed them the actual records from the EU parliament and the Council records that followed.
“The parliament had been asked to comment on a proposal by the commission to ban or tax free-issue shopper bags in the EU. One parliament representative took this opportunity to slip in a couple of paragraphs that suggested banning oxo-biodegradable technology. There was no scientific backing to the negative and untrue claims in the recommendation,” Stephens said.