Michael Stephen Column

India, Australia and Dow Chemicals (FREE)

Michael Stephen, an international expert on bioplastics, shares his thoughts and opinion on important issues impacting the bioplastics industry. Today, Michael writes about india, Australia and Dow Chemicals.


I have heard that India is working on a national policy aimed at completely phasing out single-use plastics by the second half of 2022.  However, “The manufacturers and brand owners of the plastic products are being given adequate time to find alternatives like compostable plastic or other environment friendly products,” a ministry official said.

People in India, and especially the poorest people, are very dependent on single-use plastics to protect themselves and their food from contamination. This is particularly important since COVID.  Instead of banning these products they should be made anti-microbial www.d2p.net .

There is only one good reason for banning single-use plastic, and that is because it can lie or float around for decades if it gets into the open environment.  It should therefore be made oxo-biodegradable at little or no extra cost, as governments have done in the Middle-East.  This type of plastic can be re-used and recycled, but has been proved to biodegrade much more quickly if discarded as litter – see eg https://www.biodeg.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Intertek-Report-to-ECHA-24.5.18.pdf

Plastic marketed as “compostable” is not the answer, because it is much too expensive and cannot be recycled.  Plastic in the open environment cannot realistically be collected and taken to a composting facility, and even there it does not turn into compost – because   EN13432 and the other relevant standards require it to convert into CO2.  If you can collect a piece of plastic there are better things to do with it than turn it into CO2.  See https://www.biodeg.org/subjects-of-interest/composting/


I have just seen an article about plastics policy in Australia in a magazine called “The Conversation.”

They are correct that recycling will not solve the problem of plastic waste which has escaped into the open environment, from which it cannot realistically be collected, and it would be most unwise for Australians to think that it will.  Nor for the same reason will plastics marketed as compostable solve this problem.  The OPA has made submissions on this subject to the governments of South Australia and NSW – see www.biodeg.org and would welcome a conversation with “The Conversation.”

The molecular chains or bonds that form when plastic resins are produced are so tightly held together through the industrial process that just placing them in the environment won’t provide enough energy to break them down.  That is why they should all be upgraded at manufacture with oxo-biodegradable (not oxo-degradable) technology certified according to ASTM D6954, to biodegrade in the open environment much more quickly than regular plastic.  Yes, they really do, and they do not create microplastics.  See eg the evidence of Intertek to the European Chemicals Agency – Intertek report to ECHA.  Having considered this and other evidence the Agency were not convinced that microplastics were formed.

Dow Chemicals

An interesting article in “Financial Post” on 9th March from the CEO of Dow.  He says:

“In recent years, Canada’s federal government has demonstrated its support for science and research by investing heavily in innovation.  At Dow, we applaud these actions.

But the federal government’s proposal last year to designate plastic manufactured items as “toxic” abandons this vision and backtracks on the dedication to and investment in science.

The proposed order does not directly address the problem of plastic waste and would place plastic in the same category as asbestos and lead.

Society does have a plastic waste problem. But a political designation of plastic as “toxic” is not the solution. We need a better approach – one based on scientific evidence and facts. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, plastics represent approximately 12 per cent of all waste. Replacing plastics with other materials would actually increase the overall weight of waste by more than four times, requiring more landfills and additional infrastructure investments to handle this greater overall amount of waste.

In a world set to add two billion people by 2050 and to need 30 per cent more water, 40 per cent more energy and 50 per cent more food, plastics are vital to a low-carbon future. In their effect on climate change, plastics outperform substitute materials such as glass, aluminum and steel, which have an environmental impact approximately four times greater than plastics on average. One study of six product categories in the U.S. and Canada – several involved directly in the proposed government bans – demonstrated compelling evidence of reduced energy demand and therefore less climate harm when using plastics instead of alternative materials. Put another way, limiting or banning plastic will increase the use of alternatives that clearly generate more environmental harm than good.

Plastic makes cars lighter and more fuel-efficient. It improves the energy efficiency of our homes, so that less carbon enters the environment. It keeps food safe and fresh longer, which is especially important considering that food waste is responsible for about six per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Plastics are on the front lines of the current COVID-19 pandemic, from providing personal protective equipment for healthcare professionals to ensuring sterility for medical devices. The vast economic, social and health benefits of plastic are indisputable. Limiting its use poses the real risk of accelerating our world’s climate change crisis.

Many industry stakeholders, including Dow, have requested that the federal government establish a board of review – a panel of Canada’s best scientific minds from academia, business and government – to study the potential impacts of its proposed regulatory order on plastics. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act specifically allows for such a step.”

I agree with what he has said, and the Canadian government should involve the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association in this study.  One of its members, Symphony Environmental has already written to the Environment Minister.  See www.biodeg.org

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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