Michael Stephen Column Microplastics & Nanoplastics

Microplastics (FREE)

Michael Stephen, an international expert on bioplastics, shares his thoughts and opinion on important issues impacting the bioplastics industry. Today, Michael writes about microplastics. This is a FREE article.

The EU Commission have made a Call for Evidence on Microplastics

Symphony Environmental Technologies Plc have responded as follows:

“This enquiry is focussed on tyres and clothing, but it is well known that most of the microplastics found in the environment do not come from these sources but are created by the fragmentation of ordinary plastic items, especially plastic film, under the influence of weathering.

The simplistic approach to this is to ban all plastics, but no responsible government would do that. Plastic is the best material ever invented for protecting our food and other goods from damage and contamination and it has a better LCA than the other packaging materials.  A more realistic approach is to discourage any unnecessary use of plastic and to improve waste managements systems to as to reduce the amount of plastic escaping into the open environment.

However, despite these measures, a substantial amount of plastic is finding its way into the open environment all over the world, and will do so for the foreseeable future. This is what is causing widespread public concern about plastic.  The plastic will fragment into small particles but these particles are still fragments of plastic, and can persist in the environment for many decades – some people say for hundreds of years.

This would not happen if the plastic had been made with oxo-biodegradable technology, which causes the molecular weight of the plastic to reduce rapidly on exposure to the open environment.  The plastic then falls apart because the molecular structure has been changed, so that the fragments are not fragments of plastic.  They are biodegradable materials, which are available for bioassimilation by naturally-occurring micro-organisms. Oxo-biodegradable plastic does not need to be taken to a composting facility or any other special environment.

The EU Commission has asked the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to study oxo-biodegradable plastics, and after ten months study, and reviewing hundreds of pages of evidence, ECHA said in October 2018 that they were not convinced that it created microplastics.  Further, biodegradation of Symphony’s d2w oxo-biodegradable plastic, even in the marine environment, has been proved beyond doubt in the five year “Oxomar” study sponsored by the French Government, published in 2021. Marine Biodegradation proved beyond doubt 

If the EU is serious about microplastics it must revisit the Single-use Plastics Directive, and make it mandatory to use oxo-biodegradable plastic certified according to ASTM D6954, for all single-use plastics.

See also Microplastics

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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