OBPF response to the perception of the European Commission to oxo-biodegradable plastics

Plastic has made numerous advances in our way of life possible. It is light, durable, chemically resistant, non-reactive to outside influencing factors and has contributed to huge developments within nearly all industries. It is a material that keeps improving due to its versatility and it can be used in endless ways. Whether it is keeping fruits and vegetables fresh and cheap; helping to advance medical science; or providing low income areas of the world a clean way to transport water, plastic has become a necessary part of all our lives.

 In general, plastic has an incredibly low carbon footprint when compared to every other option on the market today. Because so many industries have come to rely on the availability and cost effectiveness of plastic, it is of great importance that plastic is handled and treated in a responsible manner. We must ask ourselves how we would/could replace plastic?

Today, plastic is looked upon as nature’s nemesis, but a generic distaste for plastic can cloud the conversation about the trade-offs involved when we replace plastic with other materials. When plastic is mishandled by people, it is hard to blame the plastic for mistreatment of the environment. Plastic doesn’t “escape” into nature by itself. Due to cultural or regional behaviour, plastic can be “fed” into the environment. A recent study on the Pacific Ocean plastic pollution showed that approximately 60% originated from 5 Asian nations (China, Indonesia, The Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam)* Improving the waste collection systems in these 5 countries would have a significant impact on curtailing ocean litter. 

*Ocean Conservancy 2015, Stemming the Tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic-free ocean http://act.oceanconservancy.org/images/2010ICCReportRelease_pressPhotos/2010_ICC_Report.pdf

 In the plastic market there are a lot of developments being pursued to find solutions to the growing problem of plastic ending up in nature. There is not one singularly perfect solution to this problem, but MANY options. That is why it’s folly to try and regulate every industry or every product under one set of guidelines. Instead, we should be trying to determine the best solutions for each “case” and figuring out how to be environmentally responsible while being thoughtful of regional economic abilities and industrial needs.

 The focus of today is on banning plastics and anything directly associated with it, when there are solutions already available to help curtail irresponsible plastic pollution. A lot of time and money is spent on these bans where we instead should focus on finding better ways of taking care of the plastics. This can be done by developing current, as well as new, technologies and encouraging companies to pursue further development within these areas. We also need to focus on counteracting the behaviors that lead us to today’s irresponsible treatment of plastic waste, littering into the natural environment – no technology or ban can change this – it must be done by education.

Plastics are an inevitable part of our lives, and with the responsible use of this valuable material by a well informed population, manufacturers, legislators and industry, it would be possible for the material to not have a negative environmental impact.  The ability of polyolefins to readily oxo-biodegrade is an advantageous property of these polymeric materials; as long as the means for a 100% recycling industry are not available.

The OBPF encourages everyone to be as informed as possible with correct scientific facts on the topics at hand. The OBPF was formed in order to provide objective understanding of the science and technology of oxo-biodegradable plastics, and will provide all possible assistance to eagerly interested parties in that goal. As such, we request that you take a few minutes to read the critical review of the European Commission report (COM(2018) 35 final, 16/01/2018) on oxo-biodegradable plastics, which can be found at the following link:

http://www.obpf.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/OBPF-EC-response-.pdf