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Oxo-Degradable Plastic: Uncovering The Ugly Truth

By Lauren Churcher  |  25 June 2020  |   3 minute read.
Eco Friendly

Reducing reliance on single use plastic is something all businesses and individuals alike have been doing over the past few years following the David Attenborough effect and Blue Planet II. 

A solution was brought to market which many, including us, believed was the solution that would solve the global plastic crisis, but under closer investigation, it turns out it couldn’t be worse for the planet. We’re talking about oxo-degradable plastic.

Oxo-degradable plastic is the same as regular plastic, but with a metal additive added to it which makes the material break down within 6-18 months. No special conditions needed, just air. No different material to get used to in your despatch operation, no performance trade-offs. It really did seem like the dream.

We introduced oxo-degradable bubble wrap as it seemed like an eco-friendly alternative to standard bubble wrap. Standard bubble wrap can in fact be recycled, but relies on consumers to take it to an LDPE recycling bank as it’s not accepted in the vast majority of curbside recycling collections, so biodegradable bubble wrap which breaks down in any environment, even general waste, was the best product for those who wanted to protect their products, and the planet. Or so it seemed.

The expression “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” couldn’t be more appropriate in this instance. The metallic additive added to the plastic to make the material degrade made the material unrecyclable as it would contaminate other fully recyclable plastics. Many viewed this as acceptable as a material that breaks down is surely better for the planet, right? Wrong

When oxo-degradable plastic breaks down, it breaks into thousands and thousands of teeny tiny microplastics. Microplastics are just about as bad as it gets; small doesn’t mean harmless, and due to their size, they’re easily consumed by marine life and can kill them. Microplastics have been detected in fish in our food chains and our drinking water.

As soon as we found the ugly truth behind oxo-degradable plastics, we immediately removed any products which contained the material from our packaging range. As our mission as a company is to make ecommerce as eco-friendly as possible, we were shocked, frustrated, and actually really disappointed to hear that this “amazing” material which so many manufacturers and businesses believed to be the answer to our single-use plastic woes, was actually making the situation so much worse. 

Because oxo-degradable material is so bad, it’s set to be banned under the UK Plastics Pact by the end of 2020. If you are currently using the material in your operation and were under the impression it’s eco-friendly, we don’t blame you as we thought it was too, but you need to find an alternative, and quickly too. We’re continuing to stock our standard recyclable bubble wrap and are encouraging customers to find their closest recycling point, or re-use it in their own operation. We understand that plastic in parcels doesn’t look the best, so we’re also increasing our offering for completely plastic-free packaging so businesses can get all of the protective benefits that products like bubble wrap offer, but with a more sustainable material instead, like corrugated cardboard rolls.

When it comes to eco-friendly packaging, we wholeheartedly believe that transparency is key and knowledge is power. We’ve added eco scores to every single one of our packaging products so you can make an informed decision on which solution is best for you in terms of eco-friendliness, as well as all of the other contributing factors. It’s based on whether the product is recyclable, biodegradable, sustainably sourced, plastic free, and carbon neutral; the higher the score, the more eco friendly the product.

If you need any assistance or advice on plastic-free packaging, or oxo-degradable alternatives, please get in touch – we’re more than happy to help.

5 responses to “Oxo-Degradable Plastic: Uncovering The Ugly Truth”

  1. Thanks for being open and honest about the situation. I’m sure a lot of packaging companies are keeping this fact hidden while they continue to sell these items. We buy all our packaging through you guys as I genuinely believe you care about the environmnt as we do too!

    • Thanks Luke – we believe transparency and honesty is key all of the time, but even more so when it comes to eco-friendly packaging. We’re aware of the impact our industry has on the environment and are doing everything we can to actively make a positive change.
      Thank you for your continued support and orders with us!
      Wishing you all the best with your business,

  2. Thank you so much for the update. Its great to see such a responsible supplier. It so helpful to us as customers in our environmental efforts. Please keep your reports coming!!

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