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Oxo-biodegradable industry cries foul over EU ban

The Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association (OPA) has accused the European Commission of improperly halting scientific work on the material.

It said this month the Commission told the European Chemicals Agency (ECA) to end its work, so leaving no scientific evidence to support a proposed restriction on oxo-biodegradable plastics across the EU.

In January 2018 the Commission said that a “process to restrict the use of oxo-plastics in the EU will be started” and asked the ECA to investigate whether such materials degraded into microplastics.

But the Environment Committee of the European Parliament was later persuaded to add a ban on oxo-degradable plastics into the draft directive on plastics.

An OPA statement said: “The opponents of ‘oxo-degradable’ technology have therefore sought to evade the well-established procedure for restricting products in Europe.”

It called this “astonishing” and said the bio-plastic industry had been lobbying hard against what it saw as a threat to its market share. But it said bio-based plastic and oxo-biodegradable plastic were different products with different purposes, and “there is room for both technologies in Europe”.

The OPA said it agreed there was a case for banning plastics which merely fragment, “but this does not apply to oxo-biodegradable plastics [which] are, for the time being, the only way to prevent the accumulation of plastic in the open environment”.

It said the draft directive had not yet been formally adopted but, if it were, “there could very well be legal action to declare the proposed ban invalid based on arguments about the lack of scientific evidence”. The OPA has previously threatened legal action over the matter.

In their letter to the ECA, commission officials Carlo Pettinelli and Kestutis Sadauskas said that, since the parliament had agreed the ban on oxo-biodegradable plastics in the draft directive, further work by the agency was not needed.

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