The British Plastics Federation (BPF) and the group behind oxo-biodegradable plastics are sparring over a report on whether the film will have an impact on products made from the film if it gets into the recycling stream.
The BPF commented that it was "very concerned" if oxo-biodegradable products get into the recycling system. although a report from Transfercenter fur Kunstofftechnik (TCKT) in Austria, backed by oxo-biodegradable specialist Symphony Environmental Technologies Ltd., could be safely used safely in products such as plastic lumber, garden and municipal furniture and signposts.
Symphony, based in Borehamwood, England, had hailed the report from TCKT.
“The purpose of oxo-biodegradable plastics is that they will biodegrade if they get into the open environment as litter, and will not lie or float around for decades. During their useful life they are just as strong as conventional plastics, and can be recycled if collected," it said.
“The same cannot be said of hydro – sometimes called compostable or bio-based – plastics, because they cannot be recycled with conventional or oxo-biodegradable plastic without detriment to the resulting products, and they are tested to biodegrade in the special conditions found in an industrial composting unit, not in the open environment.”
However the BPF's head of public and industrial affairs Francisco Morcillo, said that recyclers “remain very concerned” and the argument that oxo-biodegradables are the solution to litter was “flawed”.
He added: “The report refers to recyclate containing oxo-biodegradable products being used in the manufacture of thick cross-section plastic products intended for long-term use outdoors.
“However, due to the structure of the U.K. and European plastics recycling industry, there is no way to be certain that the recyclate is only going to be used in such products. Previous reports have also looked at specific uses of film containing oxo-biodegradables and not addressed the scope of potential products, which include films with long-term uses such as damp proof membranes.
“It is very important to understand that the quality of recyclate is the top priority for recyclers and even the perception that these materials could find their way into the recycling stream could undermine the reputation and the integrity of this sector.
“In addition, the argument that oxo-biodegradables are the solution to litter is flawed. Oxo-biodegradable plastics will not degrade for two to five years and that is plenty of time for them to find their way into our oceans and rivers.”
Symphony responded to the BPF report with its own statement Aug. 9 noting that the TCKT report had considered the end uses of oxo-biodegradable items and concluded it was unlikely that makers of long-life film would use recycled material, and additives used to extend the life of the plastics would stabilize any oxo-biodegradable plastics.