Biodegradable plastics offer some promise for dealing with waste issues like litter and marine debris. But a new report prepared for the European Commission's Directorate-General Environment recommends more study before policymakers take actions that encourage manufacturers to redesign products to use biodegradable polymers. The report (PDF), Plastics waste, redesign and biodegradability, considers the implications of redesign and increased use of biodegradable plastics. Among the conclusions:
- The redesign of plastics and bioplastics has the potential to reduce the use of fossil fuels, decrease carbon dioxide emissions and decrease plastic waste.
- More agreement is needed on the use of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to assess the environmental impact of bioplastics and redesigned plastics and LCAs need to focus more on end-of-life analysis.
- Clearer definitions and better labeling on the new breeds of plastics are required as well as improved public communication.
- Assessments of the impacts on waste management infrastructure should be performed at a local and national level.
- Research is needed to assess the critical mass needed to make bioplastics affordable and to identify the most appropriate plastics to substitute.