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Researchers slam oxo-biodegradable ‘misinformation’

Europe – The European Commission has no data on non-collectable plastic waste – nor does it appear to wish to obtain any, according to France’s Centre National d’Evaluation de Photoprotection (CNEP). The institute believes this situation ‘does not facilitate the development of biodegradable polymeric materials’ and is warning of the dangers of ‘erroneous information’ regarding oxo-biodegradables.

′It seems that the European Commission plans to deal with the problem of plastic waste only by approaches like recycling, composting or incineration,′ say CNEP researchers Jacques Lemaire, Dominique Fromageot and Jacques Lacoste. They argue that non-collectable plastic waste is ′not recognised′ by the European Commission, which envisages the total disappearance of plastic waste from the year 2050.

Recently, the European Parliament considered banning oxo-biodegradables altogether on the basis of ′not very expert reports′, the researchers contend. ′Fortunately, this misinformation is effective only in Europe and oxo-biodegradables are experiencing normal development in Turkey, in the Middle East, in Africa, in China, in South America and North America.′

CNEP identifies and comments on a number of ′negative′ assertions often made in relation to oxo-biodegradable plastic bags:

– ′Oxo-biodegradable polymers are only oxo-fragmentable.′ This view is disseminated by several technical centres which are not specialists in this technology, the researchers argue.

– ′Oxo-biodegradable polyethylene films (thus, correspondingly, plastic bags) are unsuitable for recycling with polyethylene.′ This opinion results from a study report showing that, in three cases out of four, the introduced materials were biosourced polyethylene which is not oxo-biodegradable; in the last of these cases, the material was not certified as oxo-biodegradable, ′the organisation not having competence to do it′, the researchers conclude.

– ′The residues of oxo-biodegradable films produced after exposure to light do not continue to oxidise at ambient temperature in the absence of light.′ This is contrary, they say at CNEP, to what can be proved by determining the energy of activation of thermo-oxidation and by understanding the kinetics which must necessarily intervene.

– ′Oxo-biodegradable polyolefins can give rise to toxicities.′ The CNEP team has found that the toxicity discussed appears only with contents at least 10 times higher than those used in formulations of oxo-biodegradable material.

– ′It is not advisable to convert biosourced PE into oxo-biodegradable PE.′ In fact, the team counters, the biosourced PE is non-biodegradable and is likely to be a visual pollutant and macrotoxic in the marine environment. It thus appears desirable to make them acquire a biodegradable property.

The verdict is that research conducted into oxo-biodegradable materials since the year 2000 must be allowed to continue ′without meeting non-scientific obstruction′. With regard to achieved scientific results, the CNEP team insists, it is not acceptable to oppose them based on ′little or no proven facts′.

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