The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) has taken a stand against biodegradability additives for petroleum-based plastics, which are marketed as enhancing the sustainability of plastic by rendering the material biodegradable.
The SPC’s formal position paper follows the Federal Trade Commission’s ongoing crackdown on false and misleading environmental claims, including five enforcement actions that specifically address biodegradable plastic claims.
The SPC says it evaluated the use of biodegradability additives for conventional petroleum-based plastics and found that these additives do not offer any sustainability advantage and they may actually result in more environmental harm.
The position paper lists the following reasons for the stance against these additives:
They don’t enable compostability.
They are designed to compromise the durability of plastic and the additive manufacturers have not yet demonstrated an absence of adverse effects on recycling.
The creation of a “litter friendly” material is a step in the wrong direction, particularly when the material may undergo extensive fragmentation and generation of micro-pollution before any biodegradation occurs.
The biodegradation of petroleum-based plastics releases fossil carbon into the atmosphere, creating harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
“We strongly urge companies and government agencies to separate facts from misleading marketing language and help us generate the understanding that plastics are more sustainable without biodegradability additives,” said Adam Gendell, SPC senior manager. “We’ve been disappointed by the uptake from brands and manufacturers, as well as governments mandating their usage in other countries, and we’re hopeful that our position will help inform better decisions.”
Gendell says the best end-of-life scenario for petroleum-based plastics is recycling.