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AD firm claims it will settle degradable bag debate

Three plastics companies have reacted strongly to claims that a Belgian anaerobic digestion (AD) company will provide a “definite answer” to whether oxo-degradable plastic bags fully decompose.

The three, Symphony Environmental, Wells Plastics Limited and Add-X Biotech, issued a joint statement following an announcement by Organic Waste Systems (OWS) that its research into oxo-biodegradable plastic would be independent and conclusive.

There is an ongoing and heated debate over whether plastic that degrades when exposed to air (oxo-biodegradable) leaves residual fragments. By contrast, hydro-biodegradable plastic is classified as compostable and can be used in AD processes.

A previous “large desk” study conducted by OWS for the Plastics Europe association failed to either confirm or deny the validity of claims over the biodegradability of oxo-degradable plastics.

OWS said: “In this context, OWS, together with IKT-University Stuttgart, is setting up a multi-client project with the aim to find a ‘once and for all’ [independent] answer.”

The company also recognised that the oxo-degradable plastics industry had “reacted furiously” when the European Commission said it was considering a ban on the material.

But the statement from Symphony Environmental, Wells Plastics Limited and Add-X Biotech accused OWS of supporting the compostable plastic industry.

It said: “It is not surprising that oxo-biodegradable technology is still being questioned, because the companies marketing bio-based ‘compostable’ plastics have spent millions on PR campaigns against it and have even promoted European legislation to try to give their own product an unfair advantage in the marketplace as compared with oxo-biodegradable plastics. 

“They mistakenly think that oxo-biodegradable plastic is a threat to their market share, but it is designed for a completely different purpose.”

The statement claimed that OWS “derive most of their income from the companies who supply and use [compostable plastics] technology”.

It added: “They are not experts in oxo-biodegradable technology, and it would also be difficult to accept them as independent.”

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