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Tesco drops oxo-biodegradable bags

Tesco has stopped the use of oxo-biodegradable bags following a Defra report which questioned their environmental benefit.

The supermarket chain has stopped using the bags, which degrade in the presence of oxygen and sunlight due to use of additives, after a Defra 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”.

The 2010 report Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Oxo-degradable Plastics Across Their Life Cycle, questioned the length of time over which degradation of oxo-degradable plastic took place and the uncertainty over the impact of residual plastic fragments in the soil.

A Tesco spokesman said: “We took the decision to remove the biodegradable additive because we believed it contributed towards bags becoming weaker and to help better promote their re-use and recycling at end-of-life.

“This decision was underpinned by a detailed review of the science to help us understand the full life-cycle environmental impacts of our carrier bags.”

National Non-Food Crops Centre (NNFCC) head of materials Dr John Williams welcomed the news. He said: “We’ve been putting pressure on the supply chain for several years to consider the negative impacts of oxo biodegradable bags and move to more environmentally-friendly alternatives.

“Artificially accelerating the degradation of an oil-based plastic is neither economically or environmentally sensible.”

Over two billion oxo-biodegradable bags were given out to Tesco customers last year. New Tesco bags will not be biodegradable but instead contain 15% recycled material.

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