Bogus or bona fide? Finally, a definitive investigation of the claims of oxo-degradability


Organic Waste Systems (OWS), based in Gent, Belgium, and IKT-University Stuttgart have announced they are embarking on a multi-client project, which, they say, is designed to settle once and for all, the longstanding acrimonious controversy about oxo-degradable plastics. Are they biodegradable? Or are they not?

Last year, OWS performed a large desk research study for PlasticsEurope, which investigated, among other things, the abiotic and biotic degradation of oxo-degradable plastics, to verify whether these match with the many claims which are today being made in the market. The study found that at least three fundamental claims made on behalf of oxo-degradable plastics were questionable. "Independent proof (or disproof) of these claims is today not (yet) available," wrote OWS. "Therefore, a logical next step would be to verify these claims by means of laboratory testing." Hence the proposed project.

But first, a little background information, to ensure that everyone is up to speed on the issue at stake.

Biodegradable plastics, which readers may or may not realize, can be derived from biomass or from oil. They offer an ideal solution in certain applications, such as those in which where biodegradability plays a functional role, and as such, has an added value. A number of applications leap to mind: the compostable, biodegradable mulch film used in the agricultural industry, which does not have to be collected after use on farm fields for example, or biowaste bags for organic household waste.
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