Michael Stephen Column

Defra, India, Food Service Footprint Magazine and Waste 360 (FREE)

Michael Stephen, an international expert on bioplastics, shares his thoughts and opinion on important issues impacting the bioplastics industry. Today, Michael writes about Defra, India, Food Service Footprint magazine and waste 360. This is a FREE article.


In its response in April 2021 to its Call for evidence for Standards for Biodegradable, Compostable and Bio-based Plastics, the UK Dept. of the Environment (DEFRA) said “We are minded to introduce a ban on oxo-degradable plastics, subject to further evidence and a public consultation.”

They now have the evidence from the 4-year Oxomar study sponsored by the French government proving that oxo-biodegradable plastics do biodegrade, even in the marine environment, much more efficiently than conventional plastics.  They are also aware that the European Chemicals Agency, after ten months’ study and hundreds of pages of scientific evidence, was not convinced that they create microplastics.

I was therefore pleased to see that on 20th November 2021 DEFRA issued a public consultation on banning commonly littered and problematic plastic items, which did NOT list oxo-biodegradable plastic as a material for which a ban is proposed.   

A government cannot ban a material or technology and cause serious damage to a lawful business just because lobbyists are demanding a ban, especially if that lobby is so obviously engaged in anti-competitive behaviour.  Before legislating, a government has to be convinced that the product is damaging to human health or the environment and also that a ban would be a proportionate response.

I consider it to be a disgrace that the EU ignored their own scientific experts, conceded to pressure from lobbyists,  and imposed a ban.  As a result they are now charged in their own courts with misuse of legislative power. 


I see that Symphony Environmental Technologies have just announced a joint venture with strong Indian partners, which will open up a market of 17.7% of the world’s population for their d2w oxo-biodegradable and d2p antimicrobial plastic and rubber products. See attachment

Food Service Footprint Magazine

I have seen quite a balanced article in that magazine, saying “those promoting the benefits of oxo biodegradable plastics are about to find out whether UK regulators are on their side” and saying that “a recent report by ENDS suggested Scotland and Wales might be having second thoughts about banning oxo-biodegradables.”  The article points out that “in March, the Scottish government published the draft Environmental Protection Regulations 2021, but oxo-degradables are nowhere to be seen on the list of restricted items.” – and now we see that they are not in the list of items proposed for restriction in yesterday’s DEFRA consultation.

The article also says that WRAP is “against the use of these plastics.”  However, on 8th July 2021 their CEO wrote to me “To clarify our position, WRAP is opposed to the use of oxo-degradables that break down to create microplastics.”   I replied that we were also opposed to plastics which create microplastics, and offered a meeting with scientists to clarify the difference between oxo-degradable and oxo-biodegradable plastic, and to explain why oxo-biodegradables do not create microplastics.  WRAP made no adverse comments on oxo-biodegradable plastic in its response to the government’s Call for Evidence.

Waste 360 com

My attention has been drawn to an article in “Waste 360 .com” about biodegradable plastics.

It says, ““Biodegradable” is a controversial marketing term among environmental advocates and even some brands and manufacturers of plastic packaging and products, who see it as confusing and sometimes misleading.”

I don’t see it as confusing or misleading at all.  If the commercial buyer or retail consumer wants a plastic product which will biodegrade in an industrial compost facility, he will want to see that it has been made with technology which has been successfully tested according to ASTM D6400 or EN13432 or equivalent – otherwise don’t buy it.

However, as readers of this column will know, I don’t understand why anyone would want to buy “compostable” plastic, because 1. It converts into CO2 gas, not into compost, and should not therefore be marketed as “compostable” at all   2. Industrial composters and local authorities do not want it Composting and   3. It is tested to biodegrade in the special conditions found in an industrial composting facility, not in the open environment – so it does not address the problem of plastic litter, which is the principal reason for concern about plastic.

If the commercial buyer or retail consumer wants a plastic product which will biodegrade if it becomes litter in the open environment, he will want to see that it has been made with technology tested successfully according to ASTM D6954 or British Standard 8472 or equivalent. Otherwise don’t buy the product.

The FTC in America is quite right to ban the use of the word “biodegradable” unless more information is given.  If a supplier claims to have tested according to any of the standards I have mentioned, he must be able to produce an independent laboratory report to prove it.  If he cannot do so he would be liable to prosecution and would also be in breach of contract. 

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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