Michael Stephen Column Plastic Bans

Stop the bans, paper cups no better than plastic, organic recycling (FREE)

Today Michael talks about a failed attempt in America to ban plastic bags; whether paper cups are better than plastic; and whether there is any such thing as “organic recycling” for plastics. This is a FREE article


I noticed last week that the City Council of Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA had voted down a much criticized proposal to ban single-use plastic bags.

Members of the public organized on Facebook, addressed the council online, and appeared in person to show their distaste for the ban. Few people came before the council to show their support.

The reason for trying to ban plastic bags is that if they become litter they can lie or float around for decades, but this problem can be solved by making them with d2w technology so that they will biodegrade much more quickly, leaving no microplastics or harmful residues. See why biodegradable?


Reports of plastic pollution have accelerated a shift to alternative materials. The coffee latte you take with you from the kiosk on the corner now comes in paper cups, sometimes even with paper lids. But researchers at the University of Gothenburg have shown that paper cups that end up in nature can cause damage, as they contain toxic chemicals.

Paper is neither fat nor water resistant, so paper that is used in food packaging material needs to be treated with a plastic surface coating. Nowadays, the plastic film is often made of PLA, a type of bioplastic. Bioplastics are produced from vegetable resources (PLA is commonly produced from corn, cassava or sugarcane) rather than fossil-fuels as is the case for 99% of plastics on the market today. PLA is claimed to be biodegradable, meaning that it can break down faster than oil-based plastics in the special conditions found in industrial composting, but the researchers show that it can still be toxic.

They say “Bioplastics do not break down effectively when they end up in the environment. There may be a risk that the plastic remains in nature and resulting microplastics can be ingested by animals and humans, just as other plastics are. Bioplastics contain at least as many chemicals as conventional plastic.”

Is paper better than plastic?  See Paper Bags


There was an article in Packaging Insights on 28th June extolling the virtues of “organic recycling” for plastics, and showing someone holding a handful of soil.

There is however a fundamental problem here, because there is no such thing as organic recycling for plastics.

They do not convert into anything of value for the soil, as ASTM D6400 and EN13432 require them to convert under aerobic conditions into CO2 gas.  In anaerobic conditions they convert into methane.  Both of these are greenhouse gases, contributing to global warming.

This is not “recycling” – it is a linear process which simply wastes the material by converting it into a greenhouse gas.

The public is being misled, and these claims of “organic recycling” should be banned.

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 from Michael Stephen

Interview with Michael Stephen

Questions and Answers on OXO-Biodegradability


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

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