Tag Archives: oxo-biodegradable

Oxo-bio Critics hit back at ‘no evidence’ claims


Critics of oxo-bio hit back at ‘no evidence’ claims

By Hamish Champ
Posted 24 October 2011 9:51 am GMT
An organization involved with a University of Loughborough report into oxo-biodegradable materials has rejected claims that its conclusions were not supported by evidence.
Dr John Williams, head of materials and energy at the NNFCC, the UK’s National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” to read of a recent attack on the Loughborough report in PRW by companies involved in the manufacture of oxo-biodegradable materials.

“The Loughborough report was peer reviewed and checked by the chief scientist of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA),” he said.

The report, commissioned by the then-Labour government and published in March 2010, argued that “some plastics marked as degradable might not be as environmentally-friendly as consumers think”.

However recent criticism of the document by three companies which manufacture oxo-biodegradable materials prompted Williams to defend its findings.

“It is to be expected that any industry group will disagree with a report that does not support their view. The Loughborough report set out to with one aim, to find independent, verifiable evidence for the claims made by oxo-degradable material manufacturers and could not find any,” he said.

Williams added: “The fact that oxodegradable manufacturers have produced their own scientific dossier is meaningless without independent supporting evidence and this was not provided when asked for.”

Dr Williams’ comments followed the publication of a scientific dossier compiled by Symphony Environmental, EPI and Wells Plastics and published on their respective websites.

In a joint statement issued earlier this month the three firms argued that the Loughborough research team “had no expertise” in the field of oxo-biodegradable plastic technology.

However the NNFCC, which said it persuaded supermarket giant Tesco to stop using plastic bags made of ox-biodegradable material earlier this year, rejected this and counter-argued that it was the oxo-biodegradable industry that had yet to table peer-reviewed evidence for its own claims.

Choosing the more eco-friendly plastic

All plastic is not alike.

Oxo biodegradable plastic fragments into small pieces animals mistake for food

Consumers have gotten somewhat familiar with what can or cannot be recycled. But few consumers understand what oxo biodegradable plastic is or the impact that it has on the environment.

Oxo Biodegradable Plastic (OBD) is a polyolefin plastic – a type of transparent plastic often with an oily or waxy feel to it – that’s had small catalytic amounts of metal salts and/or heavy metals added to it.

According to the Oxo-Biodegradable Plastics Association, “until the plastic has degraded, it has the same strength, impermeability, printability and other characteristics of normal plastic.”

This statement, however, is misleading. The nature of oxo biodegradable plastic is that it begins to break down almost from the point of its manufacture. This is what gives it a limited shelf life. Manufacturers have tried to combat this by adding anti-oxygen components to the plastic. This, however, weakens the polymer and ends up contaminating the recycling stream. Also these salts and metals are inorganic materials and, because they don’t break down, will remain in the soil or environment long after the material itself breaks down.

This type of plastic poses a real hazard to the environment.  Its components break down in fragments, small pieces that are often mistaken by animals for food. There’s no real scientific evidence that small microbes are breaking the plastic down to its natural elements.

ENSO bottles won't contaminiate the recycling stream or the environment

ENSO plastic bottles are more environmentally-friendly.

ENSO’s additive is comprised of organic renewable sources. The additive doesn’t react to anything in the plastic, allowing it to retain its original strength, rather than breaking down when exposed to light or oxygen as oxo biodegradable plastic does.

ENSO bottles only begin to break down when placed in a dirt or some other microbial environment that allows microbes to colonize on the plastic, utilizing it as a food source  then beginning the process of breaking it down to its basic components of biogas and biomass. ENSO bottles can also safely be integrated into the recycling stream without any worries of contaminating it.

The difference between plastics can be both simple and profound. The type you use can either have a negative impact on the environment such as with oxo biodegradable plastic or a more neutral impact as with ENSO bottles.

Which one you choose makes a difference.