Why are oxo-degradable plastics an issue?

Oxo-degradable plastic products contain additives that make the plastic break down faster into tiny fragments (microplastics) which do not completely decompose. These microplastics contaminate the environment and can end up in the food chain.

If labelled, they are usually called “degradable” or “biodegradable”. However, oxo-degradable plastics are sometimes unlabelled, making it difficult for consumers to identify them. Oxo-degradable plastics are usually soft plastics such as dog waste bags or dry-cleaning bags.

What are the alternatives?

Avoiding products made from any plastics is the best possible approach. In situations where an alternative product is required, there are two possible options:

Certified compostable

The most suitable alternatives to degradable plastics are products labelled as certified compostable. These products can be composted, returning the material back into soil. In Australia, there are three recognised composting standards:

  • Home compostable (AS 5810-2010)
  • Industrial compostable (AS 4736-2006)
  • Industrial compostable (EN13432).

Compostable plastic bags and dog waste bags

Non-degradable plastics

Conventional plastic without additives is a better alternative to degradable plastics. While they are still made of plastic, they will not break down into microplastics as quickly and cause pollution to the environment and ocean. In addition, some soft plastics such as confectionery bags, cling film and newspaper and magazine wrap can be recycled through various providers, especially if they are clean.