Report raises questions over biodegradable plastics

27 January 2021

Report raises questions over biodegradable plastics

Greenpeace East Asia has produced a report into the growth of biodegradable plastics. It also suggests that the term “biodegradable plastic” may be misleading as the majority of these materials only degrade in highly controlled circumstances at a certain heat, within carefully managed humidity conditions.


As biodegradable plastics also face challenges on becoming toxic-free and require dedicated waste treatment facilities, the report questions how beneficial they will be in tackling the current global waste crisis.


Tim Walker, acting Chief Executive of arc21 commented:


Greenpeace East Asia’s recent report into biodegradable plastics makes for interesting reading. It follows a significant growth in the use of biodegradable plastics in China due to legislation banning the use of different types of single use plastic. Whilst this report focuses on China, it’s release is timely for Northern Ireland as we begin to discuss the prospect of banning single use plastics.


Unfortunately, Northern Ireland continues to produce too much waste. In fact we are now producing almost 10% more waste than we were in 2012/2013. Biodegradable plastics may play a part in a solution to our waste crisis, but further work needs to be done to fully assess this. Whilst issues regarding biodegradable plastics and single use plastics are worked through, it is important that we develop new infrastructure to deal with waste over the medium term to give us breathing space while these changes are introduced.


arc21’s focus is primarily to support its councils in reducing, reusing and recycling, but this is not possible with all the municipal waste generated. Until society radically addresses its relationship with consumption new facilities will be required to deal with what can’t be recycled, and recovering energy and value from this rubbish makes ultimate sense.


Further research into biodegradable plastics will determine what role they can play in reducing waste, but they can only ever be one part of the solution.”