‘Gaping hole’ in the draft Plastic Pollution Treaty


The Fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution, taking place in Ottawa between 23 and 29 April, is considering the latest draft Treaty on plastic pollution. 

However, according to Symphony Environmental Technologies Plc, specialists in biodegradable plastics, the draft has a major gap as it fails to address the issue of plastics that get into the open environment and cannot be collected.

Michael Laurier, CEO of Symphony, said: “We support the treaty's intent to decrease plastic pollution and prevent environmental damage. As it stands today, the draft is concerned with reducing, redesigning, reusing, and recycling plastics and improving waste management, but critically, there is no provision at all for plastic that will, for the foreseeable future, get into the open environment, where it will lie or float around for decades.”  

“We note that the draft is aimed to enable the development of ‘safe’ alternatives and substitutes that do not harm the environment across their life cycle. In our view, oxo-biodegradable plastic is a safe alternative to ordinary plastic.  It will decrease plastics pollution and prevent environmental damage by making the plastic biodegrade, leaving no microplastics behind.”

Laurier continued: “Plastic products are immensely useful, especially for those in the Global South, as they are very effective for protecting food and water from contamination and deterioration.

There is nothing wrong with polyethylene or polypropylene except that it can persist for a long time if it gets into the environment.  It is made from a by-product of oil, which used to be wasted, so until the world no longer needs petrol and oil for engines, it makes sense to use this by-product. Oxo-biodegradable technology can also be used to confer biodegradability on plastics made from crops such as sugarcane.”

“It is well known that many of the microplastics found in the environment are created by the fragmentation of ordinary plastic when exposed to sunlight.  These fragments are very persistent because their molecular weight is too high for microbes to consume them and can remain so for decades.”

“This is why d2w technology was invented. It is included in the plastic product at the factory and will cause it to degrade if it gets into the open environment until it is no longer a plastic and can be biodegraded by naturally-occurring bacteria.”

“We support efforts to improve waste management and to prevent the escape of plastics into the environment, but until these efforts are wholly successful throughout the world, we think that plastic products must be made so that they will not persist for decades but will instead biodegrade and be returned to the eco-system by naturally-occurring bacteria and fungi.” 

In 2021 the Environmental Protection Agency of the USA issued a report on their research into pro-oxidant masterbatches stating that they “could significantly reduce the persistence of plastic pollution without creating undesired by-products.” 

“UN Member-states in the Middle East have already legislated to require the use of biodegradable technology, and we have spent the past 25 years developing and perfecting it, so that the change can be made at little or no extra cost by plastics factories anywhere in the world.”   

“The type of plastic advertised as “compostable” will not solve this problem because it is tested to biodegrade in an industrial composting unit – not in the open environment, and a report from the University of Tokyo in March 2024 confirms that PLA will not biodegrade deep in the oceans,” added Laurier.

Laurier continued: “We sometimes hear it said that biodegradability encourages littering, but this is more likely in the case of paper and cardboard, which are generally considered biodegradable. In any event, much of the plastic in the open environment has been carried there by the wind or escapes otherwise by accident. Insofar as it is deliberate, is it likely that the type of person who throws a plastic bag out of a car window will bother to read a label to see whether it is biodegradable?  There is in fact no need to label the product as biodegradable, as it is intended to be used and disposed of in the same way as ordinary plastic.”

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