Ban the use of degradable plastics in Canada
Commentaire officiel du parti
The motion is consistent with GPC core values and earlier approved policy.
WHEREAS biodegradability is the ability of a material to be utilized as a carbon source by living microorganisms and converted safely into carbon dioxide, biomass and water (10), fragmentation of degradable plastics is the result of chemical reactions (11,12) where the resulting plastic fragments will
remain in the environment;
WHEREAS degradable plastics are not suitable for long-term storage or re-use, are not compostable, can contaminate and destabilize recycling streams because of their degrading additives (as little as 2% degradable material in the recycling stream can create quality problems for recyclers (13)), and do not break down in the absence of oxygen, so are unlikely to break down in landfills (14);
WHEREAS degradable plastics can be more harmful to the environment than plastics that do not degrade;
WHEREAS many degradable plastics imply a reduced environmental impact upon disposal, and many retailers and consumers are being led to believe that they are benefiting the environment by utilizing degradable products, such as carry-out bags, and may even regard terms such as oxo-biodegradable or
degradable as synonymous with biodegradable/compostable;
WHEREAS degradable plastic products have been described as a solution to plastic littering, when this concept actually risks increased littering by giving users the impression that degradable plastics might vanish harmlessly if discarded in the environment, when in fact, the recovery of the resulting fragments is exceedingly more difficult, if not impossible;
WHEREAS degradable plastics are not specified as a solution by the United Nations Environmental Program and consumers should instead be focusing on reuse and recycling,
BE IT RESOLVED that the Green Party of Canada will work to pass legislation to ban the use of degradable plastic, under any industry name, in Canada. Where degradable plastic is defined as plastic made of conventional plastics, such as Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polystyrene (PS), and Polyethyleneterephtalate (PET), with additives (typically metal salts, such as nickel, cobalt, manganese, iron) added to cause fragmentation, and stabilizers added to limit unwanted fragmentation while the plastic is still in use by consumers.
Plastic does not biodegrade, but instead, with exposure to sunlight, it photodegrades into smaller and smaller pieces, which remain in the environment. Plastic is now found throughout all depths of the world’s
oceans, from the equator to polar regions, and it is estimated that over 100,000 sea turtles and marine mammals, one million seabirds, and countless fish die each year from ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic (UNEP (1)). Plastics are also clogging waterways, swelling landfills, and accumulating on
Globally, only 3.5% of plastics are recycled in any way and there is an urgent need to reduce the use and disposal of plastic. One proposed solution has been the production of degradable plastics, also called oxo-degradable, oxo-biodegradable, commonly used for carry-out bags.
However, these are typically made with conventional plastics (petroleum-based polymers - usually polyethylene) with additives (usually metal salts), which accelerate their degradation when exposed to light and/or heat and cause fragmentation (2). They do not meet existing standards for biodegradability or compostability (3,4,5).
Eventually degradable plastic may break down enough to be attacked by microorganisms, but the time scale is in the order of years (5). Meanwhile, by decomposing into tiny fragments, which remain in the environment, this type of plastic has the potential to harm the environment more than plastics that are not made degradable (6). The resulting micro-fragments of plastic can more readily be transported by wind, precipitation, or flowing water into marine habitats, where they can accumulate toxic chemicals and are more readily ingested by marine animals and pose the risk of bioaccumulation (7,8). In soil, these micro-fragments may concentrate pesticide residues and/or be ingested by earthworms, insects, birds, or other animals (9).
1. UNEP = United Nations Environmental Program
2. Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK, 2010, Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Oxodegradable Plastic Across Their Life Cycle, A research report completed for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, EV0422, p.1
3. Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, 2009, Bio-degradable Plastics-Impact on Environment, p.2
4. Plastics New Zealand, 2009, Degradable Plastics in New Zealand, A Guide and Industry Commitment, p.6, Accessed @ http://www.eco-pal.co.nz/Portals/220/pnz-degradables-guide-signed.pdf
5. Loughborough University, 2010, Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Oxodegradable Plastic Across Their Life Cycle, A research report completed for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, EV0422, p.3
6. Narayan, R., 2009, Biodegradability . . ., Bioplastics Magazine [01/09] Vol. 4, p.29, Accessed @
7. European Bioplastics, 2009, Position Paper,“Oxo-biodegradable” Plastics, p.5, Accessed @
8. Narayan, R., 2009, Biodegradability . . . , Bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/09] Vol. 4, pp.30,31,Accessed @
9. Loughborough University, 2010, Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Oxodegradable Plastic Across Their Life Cycle, A research report completed for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, EV0422, p.12
10. Howarth, L, Ecologist, 2013, Why Pakistan’s recent announcement of a ban of non-diodegradable plastics may not be beneficial for the environment, Accessed @
11. Greene, K.L., Tonjes, D.J., Green, Waste Reduction and Management Institute, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Degradable Plastics and Solid Waste Management Systems, p.9; To quote: “Synthetic polymers are generally resistant to most degradation over human-scale time frames, which is an important characteristic for their use. However, they do undergo “weathering”: the sum of chemical reactions, such as oxidation or hydrolization and degradation from radiation (Searle 2003), as particular bond lengths correspond to the radiation wave length, and absorb energy, destabilizing the atomic bond through Norrish I or Norrish II reactions (Gilead 1985)”.
12. Thomas, N.L., Clarke, J., McLauchlin, A.R., Patrick, S.G., Loughborough University, Assessment of the Environmental Impact of Oxo-degradable Plastics, p.3. To quote: The degradation of oxo-degradable plastics is due to a chemical process known as oxidative degradation, when the plastic is exposed to heat or light. Oxidative degradation is a complex series of chemical reactions in which the long chains of polyethylene molecules are broken down into shorter lengths by the action of oxygen, ultra-violet light and/or heat.
13. Champ, H., Plastics News, 2014, Academic urges European ban on single-use bags, Accessed @ http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20140221/NEWS/140229988/academic-urg...
14. Loughborough University, 2010, Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Oxodegradable Plastic Across Their Life Cycle, A research report completed for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, EV0422, pp.3,4