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EU faces legal threat over biodegradable plastics legislation

The Oxo-Biodegradable Plastics Association (OPA) has threatened legal action against the EU over legislation it fears will make people mistakenly think its products have been banned.

A dispute has arisen over a directive due to be passed before the European Parliament is dissolved on 18 April ahead of elections.

It is intended to ban plastic that “does not properly biodegrade and thus contributes to microplastic pollution in the environment, is not compostable, negatively affects the recycling of conventional plastic and fails to deliver a proven environmental benefit”.

But the OPA said its products do biodegrade and so do not contribute to microplastic pollution or negatively affect conventional plastic recycling. It fears that people will think biodegradable plastics are outlawed.

The OPA also objects that the Parliament went ahead with the directive without waiting for the outcome of research from the European Chemicals Agency (ECA) requested by the EU Commission.

OPA chair Michael Stephen said: “The EU is rushing to ban a technology without waiting for the advice of the ECA so as to pass the directive into law before the Parliament dissolves.

“This is serious maladministration and the industry will take the case to the European Court of Justice if necessary.”

According to the OPA, last October EHCA advised that it was not convinced that microplastics are formed by oxo-biodegradable plastics. But the Parliament’s environment committee bypassed it to insert a ban directly into the draft directive.

It said this meant the directive was not based on a proper investigation of the science and that no impact assessment had been made.

The oxo-biodegradable industry has faced opposition from those who claim its products either do not biodegrade or would cause problems were they included in the conventional plastics waste stream.


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