Recycling Industry Adopts Position on Use of Degradable Additives in Plastic Packaging

The recycling industry issues a policy position on the use of degradable plastic packaging, which continues to generate confusion in the marketplace.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) Board of Directors recently passed a series of changes to its policy positions, as well as a new policy on degradable additives in plastics packaging. The new policy is a result of the confusion over the use of terms “biodegradable,” “oxo-degradable,” or “photodegradable” to describe plastics containing degradable additives, when in fact, the evidence does not support their use meet common definitions of these terms.

Degradable additives are chemical compounds that are often incorporated in conventional plastics such polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) during the converting process from polymer pellets to final products. The terms “biodegradable,” “oxo-degradable,” or “photodegradable” when used in relation to use with a plastic item may not be supported by tests conducted by third parties using standards and protocols as those published by ASTM, ISO and other standard making bodies. In addition, plastics that contain degradable additives can harm plastic recycling as these additives may be mixed unknowingly with non-degradable plastic and cause the resulting feedstock to be significantly compromised.

As a result, ISRI:

  • Suggests any claims as to the use of terms “biodegradable,” “oxo-degradable,” “photodegradable,” and other terms that indicate the plastic is easily degraded be supported by independent third party research and testing using accepted standard methods and specifications published by ASTM, ISO or other standard making bodies;
  • Suggests the introduction of products that contain degradable additives does not harm or compromise currently acceptable recycling practices, recycled material product expectations, and the affiliated recycling infrastructure; and
  • Suggests that such additives do not encourage or excuse poor consumer behavior such as littering.

In addition to action taken on degradable additives, the ISRI Board also updated a series of existing positions on accelerated or bonus depreciation tax allowances, scrap tire design for recycling, free and fair trade, recyclable materials theft; and the use of rubberized asphalt in road constructions. The changes are part of an ongoing review process of all ISRI policies and positions to ensure they continue to meet the needs of the evolving industry and changing political climate.