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Proposed Laws Would Require ‘Not Recyclable’ Wording on Biodegradable Containers

Laws proposed in North Carolina and Alabama would require any container made from compostable or biodegradable plastic to be labeled “non-recyclable.”

One bill introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly, and two proposed in the Alabama Legislature, would disallow any plastic containers from being labeled with the terms “compostable,” “biodegradable,” or “degradable,” unless the container is marked “not recyclable,” writes Plastics News.

The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, the trade association of companies that recycle plastic, supports the legislation, and has reinforced its long standing opposition to the use of degradable additives in currently and potentially recyclable bottles, containers, and films.

“Since mid-2009 APR has repeatedly asked those who sell and those who use oxo-degradable or biodegradable additives to consider the sustainability implications of those additives on the recyclability of packaging,” commented Steve Alexander, APR’s director. “We have asked for the data that support the claims of bottles containing the additives would have no impact on the recyclability of a bottle, including next use life. We have seen no credible supporting data. Without mitigating data, we must oppose the misuse of such additives in recyclable plastic.”

The real concern is the impact of a degradable additive once the plastic is recycled and used in second and successive applications, explained John Standish, APR’s technical director.  A great deal of recycled plastic goes into carpeting, geo-textiles, strapping, plastic lumber, and pipe. All are long-lived uses with as much as a 30-plus year expected life span. Standish said that if the polymer molecules break down during the expected service life, failure and potentially expensive remediation is a likely result.

APR is reinforcing its support of legislation currently being considered in North Carolina and Alabama that would prohibit the use of the term “degradable and recyclable” on the label of a container and require containers with degradable additives to be labeled with the instruction “do not recycle.”  APR recommends environmental certifying organizations always include the impact of degradable additives on plastics recycling before permitting use of logos.

If passed, the bills will go into effect in July, 2014.

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