A European Commission request for the preparation of a restriction dossier, on the ground that potential risk to the environment may arise from the use of oxo-plastics because of their potential to initiate the generation of microplastics has been denounced as “fundamentally misconceived” by the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association, which is calling for the EC reconsider its position and withdraw its request.
While there is no EU ban on oxo-biodegradable plastic, the EC has requested the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) prepare the restriction dossier. The OPA claims there should be plenty of scientific evidence to satisfy ECHA that there is no such risk to the environment, whereas the real impact comes from conventional plastics.
A press statement issued by the OPA said: “The Commission knows that fragments of conventional plastic will lie or float around as microplastics for a hundred years or more before they become biodegradable, and that this is the source of most of the microplastics which researchers are finding in the oceans. These plastics are very persistent and very accumulative, and should certainly be banned or restricted in Europe.”
The Middle East has already taken this step. The UAE passed legislation in 2009 and Saudi Arabia has now followed this example.
With regard to oxo-biodegradable plastic, the Commission’s 2018 Report says that it fragments over time into plastic particles, and finally microplastics, with similar properties to microplastics originating from the fragmentation of conventional plastics.
However, the OPA states this is an error as their properties are significantly different.
The Commission also says “It is clear that oxo-degradable plastic is prohibited from degradation if not first exposed to UV radiation and, to a certain extent, heat.” but OPA claims this is another serious error and that while UV exposure and ambient heat will accelerate the process, hey are not essential.
It states: “Oxo-biodegradable plastic does not contain any of the hazardous substances listed in Art 11 of the Packaging Waste Directive nor in EN13432 (which is the European standard for plastics intended for composting). Also, oxo-biodegradable plastics are tested according to the same eco-toxicity tests prescribed by EN13432 for plastics intended for composting.”
The OPA has told its members that if the EC request is not withdrawn, it will submit the necessary evidence to ECHA, and if necessary to the courts, but this could take up to four years. During that time members will be free to supply oxo-biodegradable plastic in the EU.
“As each week goes by, thousands more tons of conventional plastic finds its way into the open environment. If action had been taken years ago to adopt oxo-biodegradable plastic technology there would be no ocean garbage patches of plastic today. There has been, and continues to be, a serious failure by the EU Commission and member-states to address this matter effectively, to the great detriment of future generations,” the statement concludes.