Understanding biodegradable plastics

April 06, 2023 | 08:30
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In the fight against plastic waste, some businesses claim to use biodegradable plastics. However, the reality is that they are only using partially biodegradable plastics, called OXO-degradable plastics. These products don't contribute to sustainable development and are, in fact, directly harmful to the environment.

OXO-degradable plastic products are widely sold at convenience stores, supermarkets, and wet markets in Vietnam. The products are offered at a cheap price, which is only one-third or even one-fourth the price of biodegradable plastic products.

Many experts have pointed out that OXO-degradable plastics are the primary cause of environmental pollution. They are made from a common plastic material with additives added to accelerate the process of fragmenting into microplastics. Consumers often mistake OXO-degradable plastics with biodegradable plastics, purchasing the packaging while wishing to contribute to environmental protection. This misleading consumption habit is leading to long-term consequences.

Dang Thi Kim Chi from the Advisory Council for Science, Education, and Environment under the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee, said, "After being discharged into the environment, OXO-degradable plastics decompose into small plastic pieces in the form of microplastics. They then have a massively negative impact and adversely affects land, rivers, lakes, and the sea. More dangerously, when decomposing in the environment, microplastics enter the food chain of organisms and humans, causing harm to the environment and health."

Understanding biodegradable plastics

According to Dang Thi Kim Chi, these mistaken purchases will have three consequences. Firstly, the use of oxyde-degradable plastics directly affects the living environment, increasing the number of microplastics absorbed by humans, animals, and plants.

Secondly, it affects businesses operating in biodegradable plastic production. Many businesses face difficulties due to this consumption habit, so they are not willing to invest in sci-tech to develop environmentally friendly products. Due to the requirement of large amounts of investment capital, businesses need to consider this consumption problem carefully.

Finally, the use of OXO biodegradable plastic products affects Vietnam's sustainable development goals in the long run. In the trend against plastic waste, some businesses claim to use biodegradable plastic. However, the reality is that they are using partially biodegradable plastic, which is OXO. These efforts don't contribute to sustainable development or environmental sustainability as the goal.

How do I recognize biodegradable plastics?

Experts recommend that consumers should educate themselves to distinguish between environmentally friendly products and those that are not, to make the right choice.

In addition, customers can identify a number of important certificates that signify the biodegradability and environmental friendliness of products printed on the packaging, such as TCVN 13114, DIN Certco, Seedling, BPI Compostable and TUV OK Compost.

Understanding biodegradable plastics

With eco-unfriendly products, the label may say degradable plastic product, but the ingredients on the packaging will say PVC, HDPE, LDPE, PE, and OXO additives. These are products belonging to the OXO group.

Environmentally friendly, compostable product packaging should say PLA and PBAT, and display international certifications. Consumers should pay attention to these labels when making purchases.

Kim Chi also noted that biodegradable plastic products are generally more expensive, which is another difference consumers will notice. However, to protect the health of the environment and of ourselves in the long run, it is advisable to choose the packaging made from biodegradable plastics.

Policies for green products should be in place

The Law on Environmental Protection stipulates that organisations and individuals are responsible for limiting the use, reducing, classifying, and disposing of single-use plastic products and non-biodegradable plastic packaging. It is necessary to make people more aware and change the approach to packaging production to ensure a safer and more sustainable environment.

Consumers can currently access eco-friendly products from reputable enterprises that take the lead in the development of materials and biodegradable products. In Vietnam, there are many types of environmentally friendly products, including the AnEco biodegradable plastic product line of An Phat Holdings, which has been successfully researched and manufactured since 2015. The product line has been successful in both domestic and foreign markets. AnEco products have achieved many prestigious certificates of biodegradability, such as TCVN 13114, TUV OK Compost INDUSTRIAL, TUV OK Compost HOME, and BPI Compostable.

Nguyen Le Thang Long, chairman of the Vietnam Environmentally Friendly Products Manufacturers Association said, "For green products to have a place in the market, we need to change people's perception and awareness while pushing for a synchronized legal framework that will support and protect businesses producing environmentally friendly products."

In the same vein, many experts recommend that it is necessary to have clear policies and media coverage to encourage people to biodegradable plastic bags to protect the environment. At the same time, there should be specific regulations and standards to support businesses that specialize in developing truly biodegradable products. This way will inspire businesses to invest and be creative in developing environmentally friendly products toward a green economy and sustainable development.

OXO-degradable plastics threaten sustainable development OXO-degradable plastics threaten sustainable development

OXO-degradable microplastic particles have become a common pollutant in soil and water and pose a threat to both ecosystems and human health.

By Thanh Van

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