Oxo-Biodegradable Plastics Federation: A new voice in an old debate

02/12/2016

A group of European and American manufacturers of ‘oxo-biodegradable’ plastics have come together to form the Oxo-Biodegradable Plastics Federation (OBPF). The new federation officially launched on February 1, 2016, and seeks to promote what it describes in the announcement as “the appropriate use of oxo-biodegradable products through participation in the development of standards, regulations, material guides and positive community interaction.”

Oxo-biodegradable plastics, or oxo-degradable plastics, as those who do not support the use of the technology prefer to call them, have come under considerable fire over the past few years. The reason for this is the widespread doubt that has arisen about the actual effectiveness of the technology. Does biodegradation actually occur with the use of this additive technology, or not?

It doesn’t, wrote the SPI (Washington, DC) in its 2013 position paper on the subject. The terms (i.e., “degradable,” “oxo-degradable,” “oxo-biodegradable,” “oxo-green” and “landfill degradable”) suggest that the products can undergo rapid degradation and biodegradation under many different end-of-life conditions. But, said the SPI, the main effect of oxidation is fragmentation, not biodegradation.
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