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APR cautions about potential effects of degradable additives on plastics recycling

The association’s Steve Alexander says claims regarding the additives’ recyclability are “unfounded, untested and possibly misleading as outlined by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guide.”

April 11, 2022

Steve Alexander, president and CEO of the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), Washington, has issued a statement regarding the potential effects of degradable additives on mechanical recycling of postconsumer plastics.

The statement reads in part, “Claims regarding the recyclability of degradable additives are unfounded, untested and possibly misleading as outlined by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's Green Guide. No third-party testing data has confirmed these recyclability claims. APR urges companies making such claims to share their supporting data with the recycling community.”

Alexandar says the APR is worried that the additives could negatively affect mechanical recycling of postconsumer plastics by compromising “the integrity or useful life of plastic packaging or durable products made from recycled resins that contain these additives.”

He continues, “The use of such degradable additives in packaging may render the packaging nonrecyclable because they lower the functionality and sustainability of recycled postconsumer plastics when included with recyclable plastics. Because degradable additives contaminate the plastics recycling stream, they must be kept isolated from recyclable packaging.” 

Alexander adds, “The degradation of otherwise recycled plastics means lost opportunities for the repeated use of molecules through recycling, which according to the 2018 Life Cycle Inventory Analysis of Recycled Plastics, has less environmental impact than single use of molecules.”

His statement concludes, “Although APR has provided test protocols for time-dependent degradation for over 10 years, due to the concern and risks involved, APR does not consider items containing degradable additives eligible for APR Design Recognition Programs. It is also illegal in Alabama, California and North Carolina to label a plastic product both ‘degradable and recyclable.’”

Recently, a U.K.-based tech startup, Polymateria, says it found a way to alter the properties of plastic to make it biodegradable and recyclable at the same time with the use of a proprietary additive.

The U.S. Plastics Pact also has identified oxo-degradable additives, including oxo-biodegradable additives, on its Problematic and Unnecessary Materials List, saying these items "are not currently reusable, recyclable or compostable at scale in the U.S. and are not projected to be kept in a closed loop in practice and at scale by 2025."