What are Oxo-Degradable plastics?

by Richard Butcher | October 07, 2019

What are Oxo-Degradable plastics made from? Why are they damaging the environment? 

As consumer demand for more sustainable packaging increases... it can be bewildering for retailers (and consumers alike), to make an informed decision regarding the best possible options for their business, their customers and the environment as a whole.

Many plastic options available today are made from either: plant-based renewable material, or oil. These can be divided into 3 types: Compostable, Degradable and Oxo-Degradable. You will find more information regarding all plastic types right here on our website, which should help to clarify the differences. In this blog, we look at Oxo-Degradable plastics specifically, and why you shouldn't consider this an environmentally friendly option. 

You are most likely to encounter Oxo-Degradable plastic in carrier bags and refuse sacks. These products are cheap, widely available and often assumed to be a ‘good’ environmental choice, however... this is not the case at all. Oxo-Degradable products are made using conventional oil-based plastics with an additive to increase the speed at which the plastic breaks down. The additive does indeed break down the polymer chains at an increased speed (faster than conventional oil-based plastic) however, they both have the same issue, they leave behind micro plastics, which will contaminate the wider environment indefinitely.

This is a significant problem. The EU are considering an outright ban on Oxo Degradable plastic. As a result of the increased speed at which these micro plastics are released, this type of product is potentially more environmentally damaging than conventional non-degradable plastic. 

Oxo-Degradable products are often sold as eco-friendly however, as they are neither renewable nor compostable and we feel that this is very misleading, especially when there are far superior alternatives available. Anyone looking to use Oxo-Degradable products should consider using either starch or paper-based alternatives... as they are both renewable and compostable.

Here’s a recent conversation about Oxo-Degradable products on Instagram, which has caused some confusion (for a few reasons).

You can find our fully compostable carrier bag options here.

Please do take a look at our other news articles, and join the discussion across social media via #KeepingBritainBeautiful