There is a brilliant video interview at https://youtu.be/betoHIenTkM which explains very clearly why plastic is the best material to use for a wide variety of purposes, and why the crusade against plastic is not helping the environment.
I have been reading an article by Anastasia Elias in Canada Globe and Mail on 6th August 2022. She is an Associate Dean of research and Professor of chemical and materials engineering at the University of Alberta. Anastasia is right that “Plastics have improved our quality of life immeasurably. They help our food stay fresher longer, and transporting food products and other goods wrapped in lightweight plastics, rather than heavier materials, can reduce not only shipping costs but also the associated CO2 emissions. Plastics also keep things clean while being cheap to produce and convenient for use.”
She then identifies the problem with plastic when she says “We have all seen pictures of plastic bags stuck to turtles or piles of plastic waste strewn across a beach”
She then makes the mistake of thinking that plastic marketed as “compostable” is the answer to this problem, when it is obviously not. The problem is caused by the plastic which has escaped into the oceans, from which it cannot realistically be collected, and if you cannot collect it you cannot take it to an industrial composting facility, even if more of them were built as she suggests. Even if you could, you would be wasting the plastic, because the Standards for plastic which biodegrades in compost (ASTM D6400 and EM13432) require it to convert within 180 days into CO2, not into compost. Also the industrial composters do not want it https://www.biodeg.org/subjects-of-interest/composting/
Anastasia says “Scientists and engineers are making tremendous progress in developing new solutions to address the challenges of plastics.” Yes this is true. For the past 25 years the scientists at Symphony Environmental have been working to develop a type of plastic which will biodegrade very much more quickly in the open environment, and will not therefore accumulate in the oceans or leave any microplastics or toxic residues. They have succeeded, and the technology (called d2w) is now available to the plastics industry at very low cost.
The most important studies on this technology are as follows:
Oxomar was a three-year study on plastics in the marine environment, sponsored by the French Government, at l’Observatoire Oceanologique de Banyul Sue Mer. It concluded that plastic made with d2w technology will biodegrade in the marine environment significantly more efficiently than conventional plastic. The Report can be found in English and French at https://www.biodeg.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Final-report-OXOMAR-10032021.pdf
Following this study, the Oxomar scientists allowed bacteria commonly found in the open environment access to d2w plastic film containing Carbon 13. They found Carbon 13 in the CO2 exhaled by the bacteria, proving beyond doubt that the plastic had been bio-assimilated by the bacteria.
Queen Mary University London reported in February 2020 that plastic products containing a d2w masterbatch will be biodegraded by bacteria commonly found in the open environment, up to 90 times faster than ordinary plastic. The Report can be found at https://www.biodeg.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/published-report-11.2.20-1.pdf
In 2017 the EU Commission referred this type of plastic to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) because the Commission was concerned that it might create microplastics. ECHA made a call for evidence, and after studying many hundreds of pages of evidence, including evidence from Intertek https://www.biodeg.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Intertek-Report-to-ECHA-24.5.18.pdf they confirmed on 30th October 2018 that they were not convinced that microplastics were formed.
The problem is that this technology has not been adopted at scale by the plastics industry, who are still producing millions of tons of old-fashioned plastic, and they will not adopt it at scale unless encouraged or required to do so by governments, and international organisations. The only part of the world where its use has been made compulsory, is the Middle East, where governments have done this successfully for the protection of their environment. Canada should follow their example.
There is no shortage of publicity from NGOs and environmental journalists about the problem of plastics in the oceans, but they do not address any solutions, save to call for more bans and taxes and more recycling.
One such article appeared in “The Guardian,” so on 8th August 2022 I wrote to the Guardian:
“I have seen the article by Kim Heacox about plastic in the oceans.
The article fails to mention that scientists have developed a technology for making plastic, which will cause it to become biodegradable at the end of its useful life. It will not create microplastics and will be consumed by bacteria and fungi instead of accumulating in the oceans.
We cannot recover the plastic which has been thoughtlessly manufactured and carelessly disposed of, but we can stop the problem getting worse.
The Guardian should be campaigning for the plastics industry to use this technology – it is called d2w.”
I saw in Packaging Insights on 6th Jul 2022 an article saying that “Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) technology, which substitutes the atmospheric air inside a package with a protective gas mix, is booming in popularity. The design enables shelf-life extension without including preservatives and can maintain the product image for greater consumer appeal. While the technology has been around for years, rising hygiene and food waste concerns are drawing many industry players toward MAP designs.
I am aware that Symphony Environmental has developed a range of technologies for making plastic packaging which keeps food fresher for longer by adsorbing the gases which cause the food to deteriorate. See www.d2p.net
RECYCLED -V- VIRGIN POLYMER
I noticed that the British Plastics Federation are saying that recycling plastic saves between 30-80% of the emissions generated by virgin plastic. I had always thought that the opposite was the case, so I checked with scientists who understand polymers and this is what they said:
“As is well known, the oil and gas are not extracted and processed primarily for plastics, but for fuel and as raw materials for a myriad of other industries (chemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, petrochemical, agricultural, fertilizers, etc., etc.). Ethylene is just a fraction of the naphtha oil fraction, and its conversion to polyethylene does not release more emissions than the process of recycling postconsumer PE, which requires: collection, separation, thorough cleaning, purification, and re-processing.”
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 Biodegradable Plastics Association.
Earlier Postings in this Column
All articles of Michael Stephen can be found here
- 1/ 1/ 20 – Plastiphobia, Microplastics and A Throw-Away Society
- 7/ 1/ 20 – Recycling, Lab Testing, Bangladesh and the Right Bioplastic
- 14/1/20 – Plastiphobia and Bioplastics Definitions
- 21/1/20 – Composting, the European Union and Unemployment
- 30/1/20 – Plastiphobia, Malaysia and a Case Against Compostables and Paper
- 7/02/20 – Coronavirus, MPs Letter, Montreal, Australia and the Dominican Republic
- 14/02/20 – Oman, MacArthur Foundation, Stifling Innovation, South Africa and Compostable Plastics
- 24/02/20 – Serbia, India, Pakistan and European Bioplastics
- 03/03/20 – Plastic To Protect Health and Common Sense on Plastic
- 10/03/20 – Plastiphobia, Singapore, Compostable Plastics, Doorknobs and Carbios
- 17/03/20 – Greening our Way to Infection, Defra Warns Against Bioplastics and Montreal
- 24/03/20 – Ditch the Plastic Bag Ban and Inn-Probio
- 01/04/20 – The Come Back of Plastic Bags, Compostable Plastic Not Wanted and EASAC
- 16/04/20 – Coronavirus and Agricultural Plastics
- 11/05/20 – Coronavirus, Peru, Barbados and Recycling
- 18/05/20 – Say No to Plastiphobia, False Descriptions and the Recycling Myth
- 02/06/20 – Definitions and More Setbacks for Plastiphobia
- 11/06/20 – BBIA, Food Waste and Testing of OXO-Biodegradable Plastic
- 19/06/20 – Oxo Biodegradation, Independent Reports and Precautionary Principle
- 29/06/20 – Banana Republic, Why Turn Plastic into CO2 and Plastic Waste from Ships
- 13/07/20 – Running Scared, The Daily Telegraph and Market Report
- 20/07/20 – Tipa, Plastics Today and The American Genius
- 27/07/20 – Coronavirus, Plastic Litter, Bahrain and Polymateria
- 17/08/20 – Plastics Europe, Confusing Issues and Paper
- 25/08/20 – Professor Emo Chiellini, Plastics Today, Greenwashing and Coronavirus
- 28/09/20 – Kill the Virus, Marine Degradation, Airports, Brazil Retail, Plastic Growth and Face Mask
- 08/10/20 – Compostable vs Biodegradable, Covid 19 and New British Bioplastic Standard
- 27/10/20 – Power of Lobbying, Paper and Cotton Worse than Plastic
- 02/11/20 – Covid 19 and Five Myths About Plastic
- 09/11/20 – Support for OXO BIO, Westminster Forum, Euractiv and Covid
- 23/11/20 – Toxicity of Bio-based and Biodegradable Plastics, and Covid Scaremongering
- 15/12/20 – Recycling and An Article from Austria
- 21/12/20 – EU Scientific Advisers, China Chose Wrong Bioplastics and Covid Nonsense
- 05/01/20 – EU, Covid Lockdowns, WRAP, British Standards Institution and Polymateria
- 12/01/21 – Intertek and Composting
- 19/01/21 – Recycling and Exporting Plastic Waste
- 22/02/21 – Seaweed Plastic, Orange Peel and Xampla
- 02/03/31 – OXO Biodegradable Plastic
- 08/03/21 – EU Scientific Reports and Paper vs Plastic
- 15/03/21 – India, Australia and Dow Chemicals
- 14/04/21 – Oxomar, UK Government and Microplastics
- 26/04/21 – Plastic to the Rescue of Covid and More News from Brazil
- 04/05/21 – Packaging Digest
- 07/06/21 – Minderoo Report and Korea Herald
- 30/06/21 – Recycling, Is the Use of Biobased Plastics Increasing, Confused Australians and Biodegradable Future
- 12/07/21 – EU Flawed Directive, Thailand and Pakistan
- 21/07/21 – Directors Talk, Confusion, Stir Magazine and Dumping Plastic Waste
- 02/08/21 – Angry Farmers, DEFRA and Substitutes for Plastic
- 06/09/21 – Microplastics
- 13/09/21 – UK Government, Defra and David Newman
- 20/09/21 – Michael Stephen Video Interview on Antimicrobial and Biodegradable Packaging
- 05/10/21 – Freedom of Information and Plastic Waste Solutions
- 14/10/21 – Michael Stephen at Pack4Change Summit
- 22/10/21 – Plastic from Algae and Carbon Dioxide
- 15/11/21 – Defra
- 22/11/21 – Defra, India, Food Service Footprint Magazine and Waste 360
- 30/11/21 – RWM Digital Spotlight and Plastiphobia
- 17/12/21 – Disposal in the Right Way and Defra Consultation Responses
- 04/01/22 – Precautionary Principle, Anti Oxo Campaign and Defra
- 11/01/22 – Microplastics
- 17/01/22 – Michael Laurier, A Saucy Problem and Unilever
- 21/02 /22 – No Alternative for Plastic
- 08/03/22 – Sustainable Agriculture, Canada, Consequence of Banning, United Nations
- 14/03/22 – Plastiphobia
- 04/04/22 – Virgin Mobile, Defra, OXO, Microplastics, End of Life Options
- 11/04/22 – Ellen MacArthur Foundation
- 09/05/22 – Response to Association of Plastic Recyclers
- 16/05/22 – Wrap and More Bad News for Compostable Plastics in UK Parliament
- 30/05/22 – A Threat to Humanity and Market Research
- 13/06/22 – Recycling, OECD and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Interview with Michael Stephen
The opinions expressed here by Michael Stephen and other columnists are their own, not those of Bioplasticsnews.com.