Oxo-biodegradable plastics are made by blending small % of pro-oxidant additives into conventional plastics during the manufacturing process. These additives contain heavy metals such as zinc, nickel, cobalt, manganese, etc., which cause plastics’ molecular structure to break down when exposed to heat or UV light. The terms “Oxo-degradable” or “Oxo-biodegradable” suggest that the Oxo-added products can fully biodegrade but there is still yet scientific evidences to prove Oxo-degradable products can completely biodegrade in the natural environment. In addition there isn’t any Oxo-degradable products which fulfills EN 13432 or ASTM D 6400 compostable standards.
The concerns in the use of Oxo-degradable additive:
- The Oxo product needs heat, UV light to start fragmentation, but the process will not begin if being buried under ground or in landfill.
- The additives used to trigger the fragmentation process contain heavy metals, proven to cause adverse effects on humans and the environment.
- The tiny fragments left behind cause extreme pollution problems among compost facilities, oceanic pollution and cause bioaccumulation among birds, fish etc.
- The degraded plastic fragments attract and house PCBs and DDTs — when consumed cause endocrine disruption in the food chain. Endocrine disruption is known to cause significant health problems, including; miscarriages, birth defects and many forms of cancers.
- The Oxo-degradable products are not compostable certified and causes public misconception about the recyclability of these materials means that oxo-degradable additives will end up in general waste instead of recycle stream.
- With the new law introduced in California (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/asm/ab_1951-2000/ab_1972_bill_20080815_enrolled.html) starting in 2009, no bags can be labeled as “compostable”, “biodegradable” , or “degradable” unless the bag meets ASTM D 6400 standard specification for compostable plastics. In this case the use of oxo-degradable additive will not be allowed to label its bag as any of the above.
- Besides expressing its position on the fact that Oxo-degradable products cannot biodegrade, European Bioplastics Association also provides two Gases of Oxo-degradable products being charged with false advertisement on their labeling of “Degradable” and were sentenced to fines.
- The European Plastics Recyclers Association (EuPR) is urging manufacturers to exercise caution if using Oxo-degradable additives, warning they have the potential to do more harm to the environment than good.
- According to a study by Defra (UK Department for environment food and rural affairs), plastic bags containing Oxo-biodegradable additive do more harm to the environment than good. As a result, TESCO, the largest UK supermarket chain, has announced in 2011/2 that it will stop using the controversial Oxo shopping bags.