Michael Stephen Column

Support for OXO BIO, Westminster Forum, Euractiv and Covid

Michael Stephen, an international expert on bioplastics, shares his thoughts and opinion on important issues impacting the bioplastics industry. Today, Michael writes about powerful support for OXO-Bio from former UK Environment Minister, Westminster Forum, Euractiv and Covid.

Powerful Support for OXO-Bio From Former UK Environment Minister

As reported in Bioplastics News last week the CEO of Symphony Environmental, Michael Laurier, has received a letter from the immediate past Secretary of State for the Environment, the Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers MP, in which she says:

“We are all aware that plastic which has escaped into the open environment as litter is causing a serious problem, and that governments are taking measures to reduce the amount.  Nevertheless it is realistic to expect that despite those measures a significant amount of plastic will still get into the open environment from which it cannot be collected for recycling or anything else.

I am aware that your company has addressed this problem by developing a type of plastic known as “oxo-biodegradable,” which converts into non-toxic biodegradable materials if it gets into the open environment, without any need to collect it and take it to a composting facility.

I am also aware that by Directive 2019/904 the EU has banned “oxo-degradable” plastic as from July 2021 because they think it creates microplastics. However, I am concerned that having commenced the process required by REACH before any substance can be banned, the EU did not complete the process and that their own scientific experts (ECHA) advised that they are not convinced that microplastics are formed.

I am writing to say that as a former UK Secretary of State for the Environment I see no justification for banning oxo-BIOdegradable plastic.  In fact I consider it highly desirable that everyday plastics should be made so that they will biodegrade much more quickly if they get into the open environment and will not lie or float around for decades.”

Westminster Forum

Speaking at the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum on November 5, 2020, I made a wake-up call to a world choked by plastic litter and overwhelmed by COVID-19.

I told 130 delegates from government and industry “We all know that there is a lot of plastic getting into the environment as litter – and this is the reason why there is so much concern about plastic – almost amounting to plastiphobia.

We also know that the world has changed, and COVID has taught us that plastic packaging and personal protective equipment are essential for protecting us from attack by deadly microbes. 

We have to destroy the microbes before they get into the human body, and Symphony’s  scientists have found a way to make plastic so that it will destroy 99.9% of them within one hour of coming into contact with it.

But what is so special about plastic litter which has caused people to want to restrict it? Quite simply because it can lie or float around for many decades –and become a burden for future generations.

What can be done about this?

Fortunately the scientists who developed plastics found that if they added a catalyst at the point of manufacture, they could make the plastic convert by oxidation into non-toxic biodegradable materials at the end of its useful life– and they called this process oxo-biodegradation. 

They also discovered that this process will work anywhere in the environment in the presence of oxygen, without any need to collect it and take it to a composting facility. Sunlight and heat will accelerate the process, but they are not essential.

It is not designed to biodegrade in landfill, because biodegradation of anything in anaerobic conditions generates methane.

Symphony’s scientists realised that this technology would be very useful for protecting the environment against plastic pollution, and they persuaded us to bring it to market.  They proved to us that the technology had been validated by scientific studies over more than 40 years – and it has been revalidated this year at Queen Mary University, London, and at the LOMIC ocean laboratory in France.

To our surprise, marketing this technology has been like pushing a boulder uphill, because there has been a relentless PR and lobbying campaign against it. Our opponents must have spent many millions on this by now in their own commercial interests, and this has been very bad news for the environment.

The lobbyists claim that there is no difference between oxo-degradable and oxo-BIOdegradable plastic, which they know is not the case.  Oxo-degradable plastic will fragment under the influence of weathering but it does not biodegrade because its molecular weight is too high.  By contrast the molecular weight of oxo-BIOdegradable plastic reduces rapidly when exposed to oxygen.

The lobbyists used to say that oxo plastic contains heavy-metals and Bisphenol A, but they no longer say that.  What they are now saying is that it simply creates microplastics, (although the Ellen MacArthur Foundation are no longer saying that) but the lobbyists have persuaded the EU to impose a ban, even though their own experts in the European Chemicals Agency have said that they are not convinced that microplastics are formed.

Fortunately for the environment, the EU Directive does not apply in the UK or anywhere else outside the EU,


An article on 2nd November says “the world is drowning in plastic. About 60% of the more than 8,700 million metric tonnes of plastic ever made is no longer in use, instead sat mostly in landfill or released to the environment. That equals over 400kg of plastic waste for every one of the 7.6 billion people on the planet.”

None of the plastic released to the environment would still be there if it had been made with oxo-biodegradable technology.   It would have been recycled back into nature by bacteria and fungi long ago.  The opponents of this technology will have to answer to future generations for putting their own commercial interests ahead of the protection of the environment.


Since writing about COVID last week I have learned that the information shown by the UK Prime Minister on 31st October – which he used to justify the current “lockdown, actually dated from three weeks earlier. The data predicted that deaths would be running at 1,000 a day by 1 November, but this was a gross exaggeration as the actual figure was only 21% of that number. It may well have been less than that, as some deaths with COVID are being recorded as deaths from COVID.   The “scientists” cannot excuse themselves from gross exaggeration, which is then used as a basis for policy, simply by calling it a “scenario” and not a prediction.

Michael Stephen

Michael Stephen is a lawyer and was a member of the United Kingdom Parliament, where he served on the Environment Select Committee. When he left Parliament Symphony Environmental Technologies Plc. attracted his attention because of his interest in the environment. He is now Deputy Chairman of Symphony, which is listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange, and is the founder and Chairman of the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association.

Earlier Postings in this Column

Interview with Michael Stephen


The opinions expressed here by Michael Stephen and other columnists are their own, not those of Bioplasticsnews.com.

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