Supporters of oxo-biodegradable plastic have accused the British Plastics Federation (BPF) and recyclers of producing “scare stories with no scientific basis” in the debate over which materials can be exempted from the 5p carrier bag charge in England in October.
Resource minister Dan Rogerson has said that industry members, academics and representatives of the compostable sector who are conducting a review into the biodegradable bag market will report to Parliament by 5 October.
They are assessing whether there is an appropriate industry standard for an exemption from the charge and, if so, how it would be implemented.
The BPF says any the exemption would have “unintended consequences” by increasing the amount of biodegradable materials in the waste stream, which will contaminate plastics recyclate and discourage recycling.
But, in a statement, the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association says that, while an exemption for biodegradable bags would be the right decision, it has to be the right type.
“There is no doubt that bio-based plastics marketed as ‘compostable’ are not compatible with recycling, and should not therefore qualify for the exemption,” it said. “Worse still, they are far too expensive for everyday use and if they get into a landfill they will generate methane.
“The only type of plastic carrier bag which will biodegrade in the open environment if littered, but can also be recycled into new carrier bags, garbage sacks etc. - and can therefore qualify for the exemption - is known as “oxo-biodegradable,” the OPA adds.
The OPA says oxo-biodegradable plastics are suitable because they have added salts which are converted by oxidation into biodegradable materials.
“Scientific evidence has been produced to Defra that oxo-biodegradable plastic can be recycled without the need for segregation, but the recyclers have produced only scare stories with no scientific basis,” says the OPA.
The Environmental Services Association supports the view of the BPF and plastics recyclers.