Leading players back call for ban on oxo-degradable plastic packaging

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A number of leading industry associations, NGOs, and corporations, including Marks & Spencer’s, PepsiCo, Unilever, British Plastics Federation, 10 British MPs and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have backed a call by environmental charity Ellen MacArthur Foundation to ban oxo-degradable plastic packaging.

In a new statement by the EMF on its New Plastics Economy initiative, the foundation has pointed to “significant evidence” indicating that oxo-degradable plastics do not degrade into harmless residues and called for the materials to be banned in plastic packaging, including carrier bags, instead fragment into small pieces which contribute to microplastic pollution.

“In addition, these materials are not suited for effective long-term reuse, recycling at scale or composting, meaning they cannot be part of a circular economy,” said Rob Opsomer, lead for systemic initiatives at the EMF.

In total, over 150 organisations, including businesses representing all stages of the plastics supply chain, have endorsed the statement, said EMF on 6 Oct.

“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,” said Erin Simon, director of sustainability research and development, WWF. 

While still produced in the UK - Symphony Environmental Technologies, e.g., is a major manufacturer of these materials -  oxo-degradable plastics are not used in carrier bags by retailers such as Tesco and the Co-operative. France banned the use of oxo-degradable plastics altogether in 2015.

According to EMF, several countries in the Middle-East and Africa, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, areas of Pakistan, Yemen, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Ghana and Togo, are still promoting the use of oxo-degradable plastics or have even made their use mandatory.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative supports innovation in design and a move towards keeping products and materials in high-value use in line with the principles of a circular economy.

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