DEGRADABLE plastic which ‘self destructs’ after as little as six months in any environment – land or water – with no methane emissions, even when buried – a plastic which could provide the key to a solution of Nigeria’s plastic waste problems. Is it too good to be true?
Following a recent article in the Nigerian Observer about possible ways to tackle Nigeria’s plastic waste problems, the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association (OPA) think’s readers may like to know that there is already a form of plastic which could solve many of the problems environmentalists find so worrying.
A pre-timed lifespan
This form of plastic is known as oxo-biodegradable (oxo-bio). It makes plastic bags degrade completely and to a pre-set time-span, from as little as six months onwards. It emits no methane even when buried in a landfill. As oxo-bio bags ‘self destruct’ completely at the end of their lifespan either on land or in water, they disappear automatically, even if they are not collected, without leaving any harmful residues.
Yet, if they are collected, they can be recycled with other oil-based plastics without contaminating the recycling stream, as recent laboratory tests have conclusively proved. They can also be incinerated for energy recovery.
Oxo-bio plastic is not made from crops or potential food stuffs, like certain other degradable plastics, and thus its no threat to the world’s food chain. All too often, however, oxo-bio is confused with the starch-based, compostable (bioplastic) alternative, which does emit methane, cannot be recycled and cannot be programmed to destruct to a pre-set lifespan.
Oxo-bio plastic is created by adding a special additive to normal, oil-based plastic. This changes the molecular structure after the useful life of the product so that it is no longer a plastic, and is “bio-degradable” in the same way as nature’s wastes, such as straw and twigs. The process continues until the material has biodegraded to nothing more than CO2, water, and humus. It does NOT leave fragments of petro-polymers in the soil.
An ecological solution to the problem of plastic waste
In no country in the world is it ever possible to collect or recycle all plastic waste; some of it will always escape into the environment, either by accident or by deliberately being abandoned.
Because of oxo-bio’s environmentally beneficial qualities, the OPA believes that it offers one of the best ecological solutions to the global ‘headache’ of plastic waste.
Indeed, it is proving particularly popular in countries with a big plastic waste problem but without effective means of collection or recycling as the waste is often spread over wide areas.
Oxo-bio-degradable plastic meets all the relevant internationally recognised standards, especially American Standard ASTM D6954-04, and British Standard 8472 for plastics which degrade in the environment by a combination of oxidation and bio-degradation. It is perhaps not surprising that in 15 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Iran, parts of Brazil, Argentina, Togo, Rwanda and several other African countries, the use of oxo-bio-degradable plastic for consumer products is now mandatory.
Its short lifespan and its ability to degrade completely is an additional protection to their wildlife, given the horror stories of animals and birds choking on non-degradable plastic.
Greater use of oxo-bio plastic could also dramatically cut the amount of long-term plastic waste polluting the countryside, the rivers and the oceans.