The Products will have to prove they break down into harmless wax containing no microplastics.
A new British standard for biodegradable plastic is being published. Which scientists say will cut through a jungle of classifications that confuse customers.
The Plastic claiming to be biodegradable will have to pass a test to confirm it breaks down into a safe wax, including no microplastics or nano plastics to make the grade, issued by the British Standards Institution.
New biodegradable standard
The new standard benchmark was approached by a British company called Polymateria, which has formed a formula to transformed plastic items such as bottles, cups, and film into a sludge at a particular moment in the product’s life.
Once the product breakdown starts, most things will have disintegrated down to carbon dioxide, water, and refuse within two years, triggered by sunlight, air, and water.
The products that can be changed include the most prevalent litter items, like food cartons, food films, and bottles.
The biodegradable products manufactured contain an exact recycle-by date to show customers that they have a time frame to dispose of them responsibly in the recycling system before they start breaking down. The biotransformation chemicals produced by Polymateria are added to plastic in the manufacturing stage, with a bespoke element in the formula for each type of plastic thing being made.
Niall Dunne, the chief executive of Polymateria, said in tests applying the biotransformation formula, polyethylene film entirely broke down in 226 days and plastic cups in 336 days.
Many plastic products in litter persist in the environment for hundreds of years. We have designed this around the customer, said Dunne. “We wanted to cut through this eco-classification jungle and take a more confident view around inspiring and motivating the customer to do the right thing. “We now have a base to substantiate any claims that are being made and to create a new area of credibility around the whole biodegradable space.”
To meet the standard, the polymer has to pass tests that show it will biodegrade to a harmless state in real-world situations.
Scott Steedman, director of standards at BSI, said: “Tackling the global challenge of plastic waste requires imagination and innovation. New ideas need to be agreed, publicly available, independent standards to enable the delivery of trusted solutions by industry.
New biodegradable standard – PAS 9017
“PAS 9017 is the first stakeholder consensus on how to measure the biodegradability of polyolefins that will accelerate the verification of technologies for plastic biodegradation.”
The new standard was sponsored by Polymateria, based at Imperial College, London, and agreed after independent review and discussions with stakeholders in the industry, the waste, and recycling group Wrap, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Chris Wallis, vice-president of innovation at Polymateria, said the formula was designed to complement different scenarios for distributing plastic waste responsibly, including recycling and reusing in a circular economy.
“If any of these systems fail, if there are flows into the environment because of unmanaged waste, we finally have a solution,” said Wallis.
“We want to be integral and part of multiple solutions that will decrease the problem of plastic pollution on the planet.
If plastic waste is not disposed of accurately or if the waste management system ends up leaking the plastic into the real environment, this technology is designed to kick in to manage and turn the material into harmless waxes chemically.