Study German Federal Environment Agency: Biodegradable plastic packaging no better than common plastics

15 oktober 2012

Biodegradable plastics used in packaging, which are made from renewable biomass sources, do not prove to offer an overall ecological advantage. The farming and processing of the plants used in packaging cause more severe acidification of soil and eutrophication of water bodies than the production of common plastic packaging. Moreover, they cause higher levels of particulate emissions. The bioplastic bags now common on the market offer no ecological advantage either. These are the conclusions reached in a study done on behalf of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). The study was commissioned to determine whether the special provisions for biodegradable plastic packaging introduced by the German Packaging Ordinance are still defensible from an ecological viewpoint. These provisions are due to expire at the end of this year.
If you take a look at the entire life cycle of biodegradable plastic packaging made of renewable resources, that is from production to disposal, it does not rate any better than common plastic packaging. Whereas their CO2 emissions and consumption of petroleum are lower, they place greater strains in other environmental areas, particularly through the use of fertilisers. Using fertilisers on the plants which the plastics are made of causes eutrophication of water and acidification of soil – to a much greater extent than in the production of common plastics. The logical conclusion is that the much touted bioplastic bags have no ecological advantages over common plastic bags. Reusable bags made of fabrics and other durable materials are in fact the real ecological alternative (Press Release UBA, 8 October 2012).