Have you noticed degradable plastic bags cropping up at various stores? I have railed in the past that this approach makes no sense. Now a major European recycling group has issued a statement calling use of degradable additives in plastics “nonsense” that can do more harm than good. It’s an unusually strong statement in the normally clubby world of plastics suppliers. There’s no new ground here, but the group states clearly and strongly the major arguments:
1) Plastics have value as recovered commodities,
2) The biodegradable additives don’t reduce the carbon footprint of packaging,
3) The degradable additives jeopardize recycling streams, and
4) They will not solve the littering problem.
The European Plastics Recyclers Association don’t address the issue of the degradability of plant-based plastics, which may reduce the carbon footprint of packaging, but have the additional problem of pulling corn, potatoes and other plants from human food supply.
Bioplastics are entering a boom phase, and will be a centerpiece of the National plastics Exposition in Chicago next week. Plaant-based are growing because they are taking a new tack. Most of the big players are moving away from the packaging angle and toward the OEM engineering angle. The emphasis in that push will be on the carbon footprint issue.