MCS joins ​150​ ​organisations​ ​backing ​call​ ​to​ ​ban​ ​oxo-degradable​ ​plastic​ ​packaging

Oxo-degradable plastic packaging, including carrier bags, is often marketed as a solution to plastic pollution, with claims that such plastics degrade into harmless residues ranging from a few months to several years.

Seagull-Plastic-CBag_Main
© Ingrid Taylar

We should be searching for ways to reduce our plastic usage and working towards a more sustainable circular economy instead of creating new ways of manufacturing single use plastic products.

Dr Sue Kinsey,
MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer

However, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative, has said there is significant evidence to suggest that oxo-degradable plastics do not degrade into harmless residues, but instead fragment into tiny pieces of plastic thereby contributing to microplastic pollution and posing a risk to the ocean and other ecosystems, potentially for decades to come.

Oxo-degradable plastics are being produced and sold in many countries, with businesses and consumers being led to believe they safely biodegrade in nature.

Oxo-degradable plastics are produced in many European countries, including the UK, and marketed across the world as safely biodegradable. Several countries in the Middle-East and Africa, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, areas of Pakistan, Yemen, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Ghana and Togo, promote the use of oxo-degradable plastics or have even made their use mandatory.

Dr Sue Kinsey, MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer says the charity fully supports a ban on oxo-degradable plastics: “These plastics do not biodegrade and because of the chemicals added to the plastic they actually break down quickly and add to the growing problem of microplastic pollution in our seas. We should be searching for ways to reduce our plastic usage and working towards a more sustainable circular economy instead of creating new ways of manufacturing single use plastic products.”

“The available evidence overwhelmingly suggests oxo-degradable plastics do not achieve what their producers claim and instead contribute to microplastic pollution. In addition, these materials are not suited for effective long-term reuse, recycling at scale or composting, meaning they cannot be part of a circular economy,” says Rob Opsomer, Lead for Systemic Initiatives at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative has published a statement calling for a ban on oxo-degradable plastic packaging. Signatories include MCS, M&S, PepsiCo, Unilever, Veolia, British Plastics Federation, Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association, Packaging South Africa, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and ten Members of the European Parliament. In total, over 150 organisations, including leading businesses representing every step of the plastics supply chain, industry associations, NGOs, scientists, and elected officials have endorsed the statement calling for global action to avoid widescale environmental risk.

Actions you can take

  1. Find out more about nurdles
  2. Join the Plastic Challange
  3. Read our microbead ban position statement
  4. Join a beach clean
  5. Learn about Deposit Return Systems
  6. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2017

Did you know?…

Over time, one plastic bottle bobbing along in the ocean can break down in to hundreds of tiny plastic pieces

Since the carrier bag charge came in across the UK, the Great British Beach Clean has recorded 40% fewer bags on beaches

Litter has increased by 135% since 1994, with plastics increasing by a staggering 180%

MCS in partnership with Waitrose

We’re running hundreds of clean-up events during our famous Great British Beach Clean weekend from Friday 15 to Monday 18 September with loads more taking place throughout the year.

Anyone can volunteer, so get involved at an event near you!

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