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Debate: is the future of packaging oxo-biodegradable?

Global – Over 150 major brands, recyclers and organisations have signed a statement calling for a ban on oxo-biodegradable materials. Supporters include Unilever, the British Plastics Federation Recycling Group, Veolia as well as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Their joint statement reads: ‘A significant body of evidence indicates that oxo-degradable plastics simply fragment into small pieces, including microplastics, with the entire process of biodegradation into naturally occurring molecules requiring timescales often far in excess of those claimed by their manufacturers.’

As such, they argue: ‘Oxo-degradable plastics are not a solution to plastic packaging pollution, and that they are not suited for effective long-term reuse, recycling at scale or composting.’

Meanwhile, the global plastic packaging, film and sheet market will be worth US$ 220 billion by 2020, so reports the Business Research Company. ‘An increasing proportion will be oxo-biodegradable,’ it affirms, describing oxo-biodegradable plastics as being ‘the future for packaging’.

Packaging, laminated and unlaminated film and sheet currently account for 30% of the global plastic products market; plastic bottles for a further 7%.

‘The Americas and Europe are the largest markets for plastic products, together accounting for over 60% of the total,’ according to the report. ‘These developed regions are also those where the market for biodegradable plastic is most likely to grow rapidly,’ it adds.

China represents 18% of the global plastic products market – so analysts expect it is likely another ‘promising market’ for oxo-biodegradables.

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