Government called on to ban “oxo-degradable” plastics

A letter signed by a coalition of trade associations has been sent to Environment Secretary George Eustice, calling a ban on oxo-degradable plastics in the UK.

The letter to Environment Secretary George Eustice is calling for a “total ban” on the use, sale and distribution in the UK of conventional non-biodegradable plastics containing additives, which “accelerate the fragmentation of plastics into microplastics”.

The EU’s Single Use Plastics Directive prohibits the placing on the market of single-use plastic products made from oxo-degradable plastic, and the coalition is calling on the UK to maintain this regulation as it leaves the EU.

The letter cites evidence from Defra and the EU refuting the claim that oxo-degradable additives can transform polyolefin plastics into biodegradable plastics, as they merely accelerate the fragmentation of plastics into microplastics.


Further evidence from the University of Plymouth in 2019 found that oxo-degradable bags actually remained intact in the sea and soil after three years, according to the Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA), which is a signatory on the letter.

BBIA says these plastics are also unable to be recycled as they contain powders that render plastic polymers unstable when recycled together, while they are also unable to be composted, leading to confusion among consumers and retailers who consider them biodegradable as if they were compostable.

A wide coalition of signatories led by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation called for a ban in 2017 and reiterated that call in 2018. The UK coalition again reiterates the call to ban oxo-degradables.

Members of the coalition include the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA), the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA), the REA, Greenpeace, A Plastic Planet and Recoup.

You can view the letter in full here.

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