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Oxo-biodegradeable bags row continues

The row over oxo-biodegradable plastic bags has escalated with three companies involved in the manufacture of such material publishing a dossier supporting their technology.

Hostilities began in August when supermarket giant Tesco announced it was dropping its use of OB bags on the back of a government-commissioned report from Loughborough University.

The report found that the use of additives in petroleum-based plastics “does not improve their environmental impact, and potentially gives rise to certain negative effects”.

But the OB industry prepared a rebuttal document that was presented to the Defra last month.

Now bag manufacturer Symphony Environmental Technologies and additive suppliers EPI and Wells Plastics have made the document public on their websites.

They said in a joint statement: “We have decided to publish the scientific dossier on our websites in the interests of informed debate and to deal with the confusion in the marketplace.”

Their claims include:

  • the industry was not given enough opportunity to supply supporting data during the development of the Loughborough report
  • the conclusions drawn for OB plastics in relation to recycling, biodegradation and other issues are not supported by the evidence

A Loughborough University spokesperson said: “The oxodegradable industry were given the opportunity to express their views in exactly the same way as all other stakeholders and were contacted by Loughborough University for this purpose. Furthermore considerable information was obtained as to their opinion by reviewing material published by them on their own websites and in academic and commercial journals. As the report made clear, the conclusions were supported by the evidence reviewed.

“Defra have now commissioned Loughborough University to review a further report produced and issued by those promoting the use of this product. This will be carried out in due course.”

National Non-Food Crops Centre head of materials for energy and industry Dr John Williams had backed the Defra report.

He said: “The remit of the Loughborough Report was to ascertain the amount of independent evidence available that showed that the claims made by oxodegradable companies were true and proven.

“It provided a thorough peer-reviewed report checked by Defra’s chief scientist. This report was not asked to decide if the technology worked or not, merely to obtain a review of independent evidence outside the companies and sponsored academics involved.

“Broadly, it showed there was not enough independent evidence to give a high level of confidence that the technology matched the claims in the market.”

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