There are still many uncertainties related to Bioplastics and plastic. Over the last year, not many issues have been dealt with: it’s almost status quo. A lot of promises, but not much hope.
Most famous examples are PBAT and PLA
Most industrial composters (99, 99%) are not accepting “compostable” plastics; most industrial composters are refusing it. The reason being that compostable plastics do not degrade fast enough or not at all at industrial composting sites. In fact they’re considered as a contamination and will be removed from the “green / organic” waste by the composters to be incinerated.
Home compostable plastics is not really a “viable” option technically and logistically speaking. Not every household does composting; the vast majority doesn’t. Home compostable plastics need more time to degrade than industrial compostable plastics; on average 6 months (to be highly optimistic). Imagine the quantity of waste that an household produces over a period of 6 months. Make the extrapolation for home compostable plastics waste produced by a household over a period of 6 months. I think home compostable plastics will be the first one to fall off the cliff and be banned by regulation.
Compostable plastics do not add any “nutrients” to the soils. Some compostable plastics such as PBAT are known to be toxic for the soils; they increase the PH of the soils.
If tomorrow we regulate and “force” industrial composters to accept “compostable” plastics we may end up disrupting the “green / organic composting “waste management system and production of compost.
Most famous examples: OXO and PHA
The EU Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive bans OXO. The purpose of the ban is to save the oceans from plastic pollution and to stop microplastics. There must be an assumption somewhere in the EU Parliament and EU commission that OXO is the biggest source of marine litter and microplastics. In other words, the oxo plastics industry must be a billion dollar industry in the eyes of some EU policy makers.
In my estimation, the total value of the worldwide oxo additives production must be around € 10 to 15 million (pre- EU SUP ban), not much in line with the estimated 8 billion Kg of plastics dumped in the oceans every year. It is also said that the amount of plastic waste dumped every year in the oceans will increase and that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans in the future. Banning oxo doesn’t seem to solve the problem of marine litter.
PHA has been promoted as the next best thing, however both oxo and PHA have a common “challenge”:
The fundamental question as to whether it is “wishable” for a plastic to degrade in its “open” environment is something that we still don’t know. No debates have taken place at EU level. If plastic waste ends up in the open environment, do we want it to (bio)degrade and to disappear or do we want it to remain intact so as to make it possible to collect it?
The difference between oxo plastic and PHA is that in the case of oxo we add “oxo” additives to fossil or bio-based plastics to make it biodegradable; while PHA is a new kind of polymer that has the biodegradability in itself.
Oxo has been been marketed as (1) recycle oxo plastic if possible but (2) if it is littered oxo provides a plan B namely that it will degrade in the open environment.
While PHA is been marketed as “will biodegrade in the open environment”, almost as an invitation to litter PHA packaging in the open environment; because if it’s not littered in the environment, it will be incinerated or landfilled as most plastic packaging in circulation.
We’ve heard of a lot of innovations and claims but it’s really hard to differentiate the truth from greenwashing. The name “chemical recycling” is being changed to “advanced recycling” to get rid of the word “chemical” as it seems that chemical has become a bad word on itself.
Overall, there’s a lack of trust from the population towards the chemical industry. On one hand the chemical, plastic and oil industry have been accused of being the “perpetrators” of pollution; and on the other hand EU and US political institutions are relying on the industry to solve the problem they have created. Seriously? Haven’t we learn anything from the past? Did we apply the “great reset” to our common sense?
A lot of hope and resources are being pored into chemical recycling, but the doubts about the “goodness” of this technology still remains unanswered.
We haven’t really done any substantial progress over the last year. Waste sorting, collection, treatment, eco-design are still not where they should be.
PET (bottles) is the “best in class” when it comes to recycling as it’s the only plastic that has some kind of “real” end-of-life. However, it’s not perfect. A lot of PET is being recycled into polyester (used in the textile sector) and is probably the largest source of microplastics in the oceans (washing of polyester produces microplastics released through washing machine in the waterways).
rPET (recycled PET) bottles contain much more toxic chemicals than virgin PET. Plastic has currently been linked to an animal illness called “Plasticose” and give it a few more years before we discover it in humans.
I think the EU SUP directive may have been driven by an honest “intention” to solve plastic marine litter but the practical details are just close to being a fantasy.
The EU commission imposes recycling but the technology and the logistical system to do it are just inexistent … so it’s just a hidden “plastic tax” that EU citizens have to pay (EU member states are paying the bill with tax payer money) while the plastic industry gets away with murder to put it bluntly.
It seems as if it the cerebral cortex or the “collective imagination” of EU policy makers can be summarised as follow ….
(1) all plastics can be recycled;
(2) plastic recycling has a lower environmental impact than virgin plastic;
(3) recycled plastic is just as good as virgin plastic and is not toxic at all for the consumers when it comes to food contact applications.
I could understand that those beliefs are common in a kindergarten, but from EU institutions that are supposed to be on top of things, I would have expected better … just for the sake of “good governance”.
Net Zero and World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum is a gigantic lobby platform for multinational corporations but it’s also a policy driver as they seem to be pushing for a “new world order” to use the words of its founder which is funnily enough also the same words used by conspiracy theories. What a coincidence and a very unwise choice of words as it directly relates to the famous speech made by the US president George Bush senior promoting a “New World Order”. Let us not forget that George Bush Senior has been said to be one of the, if not, the worse US president ever (post WWII).
Net zero … is just a gigantic greenwashing and financial scam. The fact that EU institutions are promoting it, is just unconceivable for many citizens. In short, Net Zero means that you can pollute as much as you want if you purchase some carbon credits. The perverse effect of this system is that the entire biodiversity (forests, eco-systems, rural communities) will be “monetised” to create a false impression of “responsibility”. The money paid for those carbon credits do not end up in the pocket of the people or communities, it ends up in the pockets of corporations and lobbyists.
The EU institutions are guilty and complicit of the exploitation of the biodiversity. What about the US? Well, frankly I’m pro-American and I have idealised “America” … America always wins and Americans are great and sophisticated people. However, what I do know is not to trust American institutions when it comes to environmental, social and health related issues as the American political system has been perverted by greed and it seems that the EU institutions are on the same track. Objectively and after reflection, this problem may be a global phenomenon. The difference is that the US is the global conductor and has a responsibility towards the future of the planet and mankind.
EU Green Deal
Ursula von der Leyen and Frans Timmermans are force feeding us with some kind of EU Green Deal.
Renewable feedstock and energy are the magic words, but reality has it that solar panels, EV batteries and biofuels are just not as green as we’re being made to believe. What about green hydrogen … is it really feasible and better for the environment?
Renewable agricultural feedstock are just relying on intensive agriculture. Deforestation is still happening in Europe. And recently, the price of food is being inflated as never before. Shouldn’t EU institutions focus to bring us back to the pre-covid period?
When China decided to end the import of plastic waste from Western countries somewhere in the summer of 2017, many of us blamed China for it.
Years later, I think China did us a favour. Thanks to China, the “plastic shit” hit the fan and we couldn’t ignore the “end-of-life” problem of plastics.
How is it even possible that the problem hadn’t been observed or put forward by the EU institutions?
Thank you China for the awakening.
The Carbon Dioxide Devil
Carbon dioxide is being blamed for all the world problems. It has the monopoly the be the source of all troubles.
How untrue and simplistic is this? Sometimes, I believe that Carbion Dioxide is being used as a distraction to the other problems … what about all other chemicals and substances dumped in the rivers, atmosphere and soil? What about the rest? Recent scandals relating to PFAS is just one example. The discussion around CO2 has monopolised the debate to distract us from the other environmental problems.
Carbion dioxide is just one chapter in the book of problems, it’s not the entire book.
“Who to trust” seems to be a difficult question to answer. Money can buy science, media and policies.
I’m not really reassured regarding the future of our planet. I think we’re aiming straight into the wall.
False prophets will tell us the opposite, but the facts and numbers are just terrifying.
We’ve heard a lot of new innovation but reality is that “commercial interests” are still driving the debate.
Anyway, we’re lucky to be living in our times, and I think the real problems will remain unsolved and pushed to the next generations.
Good luch with that!