EU Oxo-Degradable Plastics Restriction

The EU Directive 2019/904 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment affects manufacturers and distributors of TDPA™ in the European Union (EU). Specifically, Article 5 states that “Member States shall prohibit the placing on the market … of products made from oxo-degradable plastic.”

A case (T-745/20) challenging the lawfulness of the Article 5 ban of oxo-degradable plastics has recently been heard by the Court of Justice of the European Union, and the verdict is eagerly awaited. Nevertheless, in the interim, EPI strongly advises that all manufacturers, distributers and retailers who are selling or planning on selling products with TDPA™ in the EU to become familiar with, and abide by the Directive, including Article 5.

EPI strongly disagrees with the restriction of oxo-degradable plastics from the market by EU Directive 2019/904, since the EU circumvented due process (i.e. REACH Regulation 2006/1907) and prematurely terminated a study of the environmental impact of oxo-degradable plastics by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) prior to a report being published. The EU Directive, therefore, is evidently not based on scientific evidence. Moreover, it is understood that ECHA had not found evidence of micro-plastics formation from oxo-degradable plastics when their study was prematurely terminated.

It is necessary to highlight that TDPA™ plastics are oxo-biodegradable, rather than oxo-degradable, though the Directive mistakenly conflates these distinct entities as synonymous. While oxo-degradable plastics degrade into fragments (“microplastics”) that can persist in the environment, oxo-biodegradable plastics, such as TDPA™ plastics, proceed to a biodegradation phase upon initial degradation. Upon completion of biodegradation, TDPA™ plastics do not accumulate microplastics, instead forming carbon dioxide, water and biomass, as their intermediate degradation products are consumed and bio-assimilated by micro-organisms. Indeed, a 2017 report commissioned by the ECHA acknowledged that “the debate … should move forward from the assertion that [oxo-biodegradable] plastics merely fragment”, and recommended the development of European standards for oxo-biodegradable plastics, a move that would be firmly supported by EPI.

For a detailed response to EU Directive 2019/904, please refer to: “The Unfounded EU Ban on Oxo-biodegradable Plastic“.