It was not to be expected that the results of the study performed at Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI) into the effect of biodegradation-promoting additives on the biodegradation of PE and PET would be greeted with any enthusiasm by the manufacturers of these additives. The Michigan researchers, who evaluated biodegradation in compost, anaerobic digestion, and soil burial environments, were singularly unimpressed by the performance of the tested additives. As they wrote: "None of the five different additives tested significantly increased biodegradation in any of these environments. Thus, no evidence was found that these additives promote and/or enhance biodegradation of PE or PET polymers."
After I reported on these results (March 3), two of the manufacturers of the additives—Symphony and Wells Plastics Ltd.—immediately contacted me to present their side of the story.
According to Wells, the study contains factual inaccuracies, invalid test results and is overall completely flawed. The company wrote that "the study methodology is completely inappropriate for evaluating the effectiveness of our Reverte oxo-biodegradable technology. These facts were explained in detail to the study authors both in meetings at MSU and in writing at the review stage prior to the start, as well as on numerous other occasions. Whilst MSU acknowledged the shortcomings of this study they chose to ignore our comments and continued to produce a worthless document. Wells agreed to offer the Reverte additive for use in the study but when it became clear that the methodology to be used completely ignored how oxo-biodegradable additives are designed to work, Wells informed the authors that their study could not possibly draw any valid conclusions. It is like conducting a study into the effects on a headache of paracetamol by testing it as a cancer cure and concluding that it doesn't work!"