Conservatives Back Biodegradable Carrier Bags

Wells Plastics Limited welcomes the speech by Owen Paterson, Minister in charge of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, this week at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester regarding his comments about working with industry in order to set a new standard for biodegradable carrier bags and exempting them from the proposed tax. In the speech Mr Owen said: ‘In tandem with Nick Clegg’s announcement of a 5 pence charge on plastic carrier bags, I want to work with industry on setting a standard for biodegradable bags. Any bags complying with this new standard could be given out by retailers for free or at a lower cost, reducing their environmental impact and incentivising a whole new industry.’ Wells however would like to point out that biodegradability in plastics is an area of confusion and some significant misinformation exists and therefore calls for a more transparent debate on the subject. Wells have been in the biodegradable plastics space for many years and have developed and sell a range of both oxo-biodegradable and compostable solutions for plastics. As a result Wells is ideally placed to contribute informed opinion into this debate.

Unfortunately, Wells has noted that DEFRA seem to consider that biodegradable means compostable, despite clear evidence to the contrary and Wells strongly suggest from an environmental point of view that in terms of the best material for carrier bags, the oxo-biodegradable route is head and shoulders above the current proposed compostable route.

Wells insist that any new standards developed should also allow for the use of oxo-biodegradables and they should be seen as a viable solution to the littering issue that these bags pose to the environment. The need for compostability rather than biodegradability is misguided as in fact most of the bags will end up in landfill so it’s the ones which end up as litter that we need to control.

The actual environmental contribution to landfill volume from carrier bags is minute and whilst it is clear that we should tackle all waste in general, it seems odd to ignore a material which can be recycled such as an oxo-biodegradable carrier bag to one that cannot such as a compostable carrier bag. It is also highly unlikely such a compostable bag would find its way into the composting arena and much more likely to head to landfill with all the other non-recyclable waste. Dr G Ogden, Wells’ Technical Manager also contributed to the recently held ‘Industry round table discussion on the development of biodegradable carrier bags’ initiated by DEFRA.

Wells have for many years pioneered innovative solutions to enhancing plastic properties and improving performances in end applications from antimicrobial through to oxo-biodegradable and recently won the first prize in the Staffordshire and South Cheshire Business Awards in the ‘Science In Business’ category for the ground breaking ReverteTM oxo-biodegradable technology for PET packaging films.

Our hopes are that following Mr Paterson’s comment DEFRA will re-consider oxo-biodegradability as a viable and suitable solution for litter in line with an increasing number of other countries around the world.