Nestlé and Unilever are among 150 companies and global organisations that have endorsed a total ban on oxo-degradable plastics.
The group, which also includes PepsiCo, Danone, industry associations, NGOs and ten members of the European Parliament, has signed a statement released by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation calling for the ban.
Oxo-degradable plastic packaging, including carrier bags, is often marketed as a solution to plastic pollution, with claims that such plastics degrades into harmless residues within a period ranging from a few months to several years.
However, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative claims that significant evidence indicates that oxo-degradable plastics do not degrade into harmless residues, but instead fragment into tiny pieces of plastic and contribute to microplastic pollution.
As a result of the evidence raising concerns about the potential negative impacts of plastic fragments from oxo-degradable plastics, an increasing number of companies and governments have started to take action to restrict their use, in particular in Europe.
In the UK retailers such as Tesco and the Co-operative stopped the use of oxo-degradable plastics in their carrier bags. France banned the use of oxo-degradable plastics altogether in 2015.
However, oxo-degradable plastics are still produced in many European countries and sometimes marketed across the world as safely biodegradable.
Several countries in the Middle East and Africa, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, areas of Pakistan, Yemen, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Ghana and Togo, are still promoting the use of oxo-degradable plastics or have even made their use mandatory.
Rob Opsomer, lead for systemic initiatives at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “The available evidence overwhelmingly suggests oxo-degradable plastics do not achieve what their producers claim and instead contribute to microplastic pollution.
“In addition, these materials are not suited for effective long-term reuse, recycling at scale or composting, meaning they cannot be part of a circular economy.”
World Wildlife Fund director of sustainability research and development Erin Simon added: “Using oxo-degradable additives is not a solution for litter. Their use in waste management systems will likely cause negative outcomes for the environment and communities.
“When public policy supports the cascading use of materials – systems where materials get reused over and over, this strengthens economies and drives the development of smarter materials management systems. This leads to wins for both the environment and society.”
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