A small Australian company has received approval for the nation's first certified trademark for oxo-biodegradable plastic products.
Alex Andrews established Melbourne-based OxoPak Pty. Ltd. to certify oxo-biodegradable plastic products.
"There's a lot of misleading information out there," he said.
Andrews first lodged applications for four certified trademarks for OBP products in 2017. But the Canberra-based, Federal Government-operated Australian Competition and Consumer Commission rejected all four in November 2018.
At the time, ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said: "We accept that, in the right conditions, OBPs can break down faster than other plastics, but … these trademarks make representations that go beyond this and may mislead consumers."
OxoPak withdrew the trademark applications, modified just one, and resubmitted it. In late May, ACCC granted approval, despite opposition from some environmental groups.
The approved trademark certifies that plastic bags and other packaging materials meet specified standards of oxo-biodegradability.
"ACCC recognizes the considerable weight many consumers place on environmental claims and trademarks, which can act as powerful marketing tools," Keogh said.
"Nothing is environmentally friendly, everything has a footprint, but OBP is environmentally preferable," Andrews said.
Andrews said scientific research backs OBP's accelerated break-down rates, providing oxygen was present. Disposable OBP products could break down in fewer than five years instead of 50 to 100 years.
Andrews will target manufacturers, importers, suppliers and retailers to encourage use of OBP in disposable, single-use products and packaging.
"While some companies already use the technology, no one is certifying and monitoring it," Andrews said.
He said the Asia-Pacific region's major OBP manufacturer is Singapore-based Bio-Plastics Pte. Ltd., which uses the Reverte additive, made by Staffordshire, England-based Wells Plastics Ltd.
Andrews, who works in real estate while building the OxoPak business, said he has invested time and effort into the company because he is "passionate about the environment."
"It's been a tough journey, but I'm grateful to be where we are now," he told Plastics News.
Several environmental groups objected to the trademark's final approval.
"OBP products contain a catalyst that promotes limited product degradation, under certain conditions. However, there is no guarantee, and certainly no evidence we are aware of, that shows the product will completely biodegrade, thus contributing microplastics to ocean and terrestrial environments," Jeff Angel, director of the Sydney-based Boomerang Alliance, a network of environmental groups, said in a submission to ACCC.
ACCC said any products authorized to use the trademark must meet British and American standards for biodegradability and supply independent laboratory tests. To maintain OxoPak certification, licensees must submit monthly laboratory reports.