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Today’s post refers specifically to the United Nation Environment Programme’s report on “Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter. Misconceptions, Concerns and Impacts on Marine Environments”

In the report, the UNEP details how the widespread adoption of products labelled ‘biodegradable’ will not significantly decrease the volume of plastic entering the ocean or the physical and chemical risks that plastics pose to marine environment. The report argues that biodegradable plastics represents a “technical fix” that removes responsibility from the individual. Humans are obsessed with ‘technological solution’ as it allows them to justify their unsustainable attitudes and lifestyles.

The UNEP report argues that degradable plastic litter in the ocean are unlikely to decompose as the requirements (prolonged temperatures of above 50°C, oxygen deficit or oxygen rich environment)  are simply unreachable.

In addition, oxo-degradable plastics contains pro-oxidant which promotes fragmentation by UV, irradiation and oxygen. These fragments pose a threat to marine ecosystem as they can be ingesting by marine organisms and facilitate the transport of harmful microbes, pathogens and algal species.

Last, the report also indicate that the term “biodegradable” can influence/enhance littering behaviour. A bag that is marked as biodegradable it more likely to be discarded inappropriately. In conclusion, the report states that biodegradable plastics will not play a significant role in reducing marine litter.

Resources:

http://unep.org/gpa/documents/publications/BiodegradablePlastics.pdf