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Biodegradant Additives Stake a Claim in the Green Market

SpecialChem / Jun 28, 2010

Green consumers want to know that the plastic packaging and other products they use won't sit in a landfill for hundreds of years. When a plastic product has reached the end of its life and will be disposed off, green consumers would like the product to be biodegradable (capable of being broken down to carbon dioxide, water, and biomass under stated conditions). Some bio-based plastics - like starch-based plastics, PLA, PHA, and PHB - are biodegradable (as well as compostable, since they biodegrade in a given time and stated composting conditions). Conventional plastics do not biodegrade, but if - catalyzed by biodegradant additives - they first undergo oxidative degradation into lower molecular weight molecules, these molecules can then biodegrade. Suppliers of biodegradant additives say that while OBP are not compostable, they are ultimately biodegradable in landfills, and are also compatible with conventional recycling streams. Some question whether biodegradability claims for OBP are really valid. A recent report from Loughborough University, commissioned by the UK's Defra, supports this view, but OBP additives suppliers say the report contains wrong and misleading statements, and was politically biased. They say the report was influenced by the bioplastics industry, whose products are in competition with OBP and which has vehemently opposed OBP.

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