Biodegradable bags: A real solution or more greenwashing?

There is some concern that the use of biodegradable additives to normally nondegradable plastic bags is sending the wrong message to the general public. One view is that these plastics, widely used in food and retail packaging, are highly recyclable, and recycling is where the main emphasis should be. Degradable additives are viewed by some as encouraging, rather than discouraging, society’s throw-away mentality. Plastic bags, bottles, and other containers are easy to recycle and have little environmental impact if they are properly recycled. We have said that the advantages of recyclable plastic bags far outweigh the disadvantages, if they are indeed recycled. However, in the event that plastic packaging lands in the streets, woods, or streams, should it be allowed to degrade (like its paper counterparts)? Do the additives used to make plastics degradable cause problems when recycled?

I asked a trusted friend who has a plastics recycling operation. He says that the percentage of degradable additives in plastics is so small, it does not adversly affect recycled plastic resin. Being in the business of selling biodegradable plastic, I had to ask, “What if all plastics were made with the additives?” He said in fact that almost all of his bags have oxo-degradable additives, and even so, the bags recycle very well, and the resins are reusable. So, would degradable additives be a good idea for all those reusable grocery bags? … What do you feel is the best solution for retail bags? Read 4 responses to this question:

Companies in this article
More in Materials & containers