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Oxo-biodegradable plastics firm in BBC row

Controversial oxo-biodegradable firm Symphony Environmental Technologies has hit back at what it said was misleading coverage of its product by the BBC.

A BBC News report on 19 July featured an item on products that include Symphony’s d2w controlled-life plastic technology.

Symphony said these will biodegrade harmlessly, avoiding the problem of plastics pollution in oceans. But detractors say the product either does not biodegrade or would cause problems were it included in the conventional plastics waste stream.

BBC reporter Angus Crawford said the material was being used in developing countries, but the European Parliament had banned it from being described as biodegradable and the European Commission was considering a total ban.

Crawford interviewed Richard Thompson, a professor of marine biology at Plymouth University, who has buried oxo-bio bags with Symphony’s d2w and suspended them in the sea.

Thompson said one that had been in Plymouth harbour for more than two years was “probably still strong enough to carry your shopping home in it”.

Symphony chief executive Michael Laurier said: “While the BBC’s coverage did not, in our opinion, fairly present the scientifically proven benefit of oxo-biodegradable technology, we are pleased that the BBC has now focused on the solution, and introduced our company and our d2w technology to a much wider audience.”

Scientific tests commissioned by Symphony over more than 20 years had shown that d2w would become biodegradable if exposed to oxygen on land or sea much more quickly than ordinary plastic, Laurier said.

“We were therefore surprised when Richard Thompson produced a bag which he claimed had failed to degrade,” he said. “Mr Thompson is not a polymer scientist, and we were given no opportunity before the broadcast to investigate his claim.”

Symphony said it would welcome selling more d2w in both the UK and continental Europe, but some 90% of its sales were generated outside the EU in “growing economies that have little to no recycling, composting or collection systems”.

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