Associations & Federations Biodegradation & Composting

Fight Between Trade Bodies Over Biodegradables

The bioplastics industry has accused Europe’s waste management companies of raising concerns about biodegradable and compostable plastics based on “vague notions”.

European Bioplastics said a position paper on Biodegradable and Bio-Based Plastics, issued by the European waste industry trade body FEAD, also made claims that lacked evidence.

FEAD said in the paper issued earlier this month that bio-based and biodegradable plastics “do not have any appropriate standards that are supported by sound scientific testing, meaning that a variety of formulations and lack of regulations do not guarantee correct environmental and market performances”.

The paper said the difficulty of distinguishing between biodegradable and compostable plastics and conventional plastics – even when correctly disposed of by households – meant they were likely to be sent for incineration or disposal.

Mixing them with recyclable plastics could affect the integrity of the recyclates as their presence “compromises the quality and purity of the final product obtained”, and so they had to be removed in the sorting process.

“When the amount of biodegradable and compostable plastics increases it will however not be possible to have them all removed in the sorting process,” FEAD said.

“It is therefore important that biodegradable and compostable plastics are not used in products that can end up in recyclable plastics, as consumers cannot be expected to see the difference between biodegradable and compostable and non-biodegradable plastics.”

It said the promotion and marketing of biodegradable and compostable plastics to the public “at this stage is premature”.

European Bioplastics, which represents the bioplastics industry, said in its riposte that FEAD “exclusively focuses on mechanical recycling while at the same time refusing biodegradable plastic solutions.

“Scepticism of stakeholders towards the relevance of biodegradable certified compostable plastics in a circular economy usually stems from a vague notion about what these materials and corresponding products can actually contribute to efficient waste management.”

It said that despite claims to the contrary, “there is a regulation for the term ‘biodegradable plastics’ [from] the EU Packaging and Waste Directive.

“Its regulation has been recently revised and adopted by the single-use plastics directive, which contains a definition of biodegradable plastics.”

According to European Bioplastics doubts raised by FEAD and others about the compostability of biodegradable “lack any evidence, as conformity [with regulations] requires disintegration after 12 weeks and complete biodegradation in a maximum period of six months”.

It said there were also “numerous standards and test methods available on national, European, and even global level, providing a normative framework for explaining the properties ‘bio-based’ and ‘biodegradable’ in connection with plastic materials and products”.


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