Antiviral and Antibacterial Michael Stephen Column Recycling Waste Management

Recycling, Plastic Exports and Antimicrobials (FREE)

Today Michael talks about recycling, plastic exports and antimicrobials. This is a FREE article.


Recycling is often used as an objection to making plastic degradable, but this is not a well-founded objection, for the reasons given at

Recycling does not however address the principal concern about plastics around the world – how to deal with the plastic which has escaped into the oceans and elsewhere in the open environment from which it cannot realistically be collected, and therefore accumulates every day for many decades.

It is obvious that you cannot recycle plastic unless it has been collected.

Even if the plastic can be collected, Greenpeace reported in October 2022 (Circular Claims Fall Flat Again) that “mechanical and chemical recycling of plastic waste fails because plastic waste is extremely difficult to collect, virtually impossible to sort for recycling, environmentally harmful to reprocess, often made of and contaminated by toxic materials, and not economical to recycle.”

Pro-oxidant masterbatches such as d2w should therefore be put into the manufacture of ordinary PE and PP products to make them biodegradable at the end of their useful life, so that they will not lie or float around for decades if they don’t get collected for recycling. These masterbatches are not put into PET.


I don’t agree with the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament, who want to ban plastic waste exports. Of course we don’t want it being illegally dumped and burned abroad, but we don’t want it filling up our landfills either.

If plastic can be collected it should ideally be re-used or recycled, but as Greenpeace has said (see above) recycling of most types of plastic is not practicable, especially for low-value, contaminated packaging. It should therefore be used as a fuel for modern non-polluting incinerators, such as the one in Zurich, where they generate electricity with the energy produced.

In case it does not get collected the plastic should be made with d2w, so that it will quickly biodegrade if it gets into the open environment.

Until we can increase sufficiently the capacity for recycling and incineration in the UK, the plastic should be exported to other countries who are willing to process it. This means making an agreement with the government of the country concerned for processing it correctly, and insisting upon an audit-trail. The NGOs would be sure to alert the UK government to any breach of this agreement, and exports to that country would cease until the problem had been rectified.


I notice that the UN has designated this week as “World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2022”

People need to be aware that plastic can be given antimicrobial properties, to kill the bacteria and viruses coming into contact with it, before they get into our bodies and have to be fought with antibiotics. See

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 Biodegradable Plastics Association.

Earlier Postings in this Column

All articles of Michael Stephen can be found here

Interview with Michael Stephen


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

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