Oxo-degradable or so-called ‘oxo-fragmentable’ products are truly a pitfall of the packaging industry. They are produced and sold in many countries around the world. And they often come with misleading brand names and terminology. The public is led to believe that they are a good alternative to traditional plastic products. That they will somehow safely biodegrade in nature.
Oxo-degradable products are made from conventional plastics. During manufacturing they are supplemented with specific additives (TDPA™, d2w etc.), typically 2-3%. This allows it to mimic biodegradation. But these additives will not result in a fully degradable material. They will only facilitate a fragmentation of the material into very small fragments that remain in the environment.
On the 6th of November 2017, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation issued a statement proposing a worldwide ban on oxo-degradable plastic packaging. This statement that was endorsed by over 150 organizations around the world. Signatories of the Foundation’s statement include PepsiCo, British Plastics Federation, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Marks & Spencer among many others.
Following the announcement of the statement Roger Baynham, Chairman of the British Plastics Federation Recycling Group, said: “The BPF Recycling Group has, for some years, raised serious concerns about the impact of oxo-degradable products on the environment. And the recycling sector is delighted that the Ellen MacArthur Foundation fully endorses this view.”
Erin Simon, Director of Sustainability Research and Development, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), added: “Using oxo-degradable additives is not a solution for litter. Their use in waste management systems will likely cause negative outcomes for the environment and communities,”
In conclusion, significant evidence indicates that oxo-degradable plastics do not degrade into harmless residues. They instead fragment into tiny pieces of plastic, contributing to microplastic pollution. This will pose a risk to the oceans and other ecosystems, potentially for decades to come. Oxo-degradable materials are not and probably never will be certified compostable. At least not according to the internationally recognized standards such as AS 4736, EN 13432, or ASTM D6400.