Jeanine Gurley wrote:I too have wondered about this. Has anyone heard of biodegradable cellophane? Possibly vegetable based?
Andrea Gorham wrote:
I did an experiment with bundling some leaves in twine last evening and they wilted within hours..
Oxo Biodegradable (OXO) plastic is polyolefin plastic to which has been added amounts of metal salts. These catalyze the natural degradation process to speed it up so that the OXO plastic will degrade resulting in microfragments of plastic and metals which will remain in the environment but will not be seen as a visual contaminant. The degradation process is shortened from hundreds of years to years and/or months for degradation and thereafter biodegradation depends on the micro-organisms in the environment.
While OXO plastics, especially in the form of plastic bags, are promoted and now widely used as a "environmentally sound" solution of the plastic littering problem, there are several environmental issues related to their use. Metal salts used as the catalyst for OXO degradation carry risks of environmental pollution with heavy metals. A study by the Biodegradable Products Institute found significant amounts of lead and cobalt in their "EcoSafe" OXO bags samples. In case of lead, the amounts found had drastically exceeded the allowed concentrations: "The lead level are 4 times higher than those allowed by ASTM D6400-99 in the US and 12 times higher than the concentrations permitted in Europe (EN 13432) and Japan (GreenPLA)"
Other often discussed issues are the potential toxicity of the OXO plastic breakdown residue, loss of degradable properties in landfills, the ability of plastic fragments to survive long enough to present danger to wildlife and discouragement of planned plastic bag phase-outs. Although OXO plastic are considered recyclable, the additives could produce unpredictable quality of the secondary product, and there are few independent studies which describe their recycling efficiency and properties. It's also been said that the "biodegradable" public image is discouraging people from recycling, which leads to increased littering and the loss of the stored energetic potential (and therefore the value) of the material, which could be retrieved by recycling and other means of use.