The Plastics Environmental Council (PEC) announced the sponsorship of a research study to produce the first standard specification for the landfill biodegradation of petroleum- and natural gas-derived plastics that have been treated with additives that enhance biodegradation. The PEC is undertaking the development of the biodegradation standard specification to build confidence in the efficacy of plastics additives with regulators, consumers and businesses. Plastic additives that speed up the breakdown of plastic in landfills, without affecting their performance during use, are critically important to helping reduce the volume of plastic waste in landfills.
Despite the fact that readily consumer-separated
items such as soda and milk bottles are collected and recycled at increasing
rates, the majority of plastics simply cannot be recycled for a variety of
reasons including contamination, collection and logistics costs, second end-use
limitations, etc. According to the
United States Environmental Protection Agency, 13 million tons of plastic
containers and packaging ended up in landfills in 2008. The PEC’s effort to
develop a landfill biodegradation specification standard is intended to address
To develop the standard specification, PEC has
partnered with Georgia Tech and
to conduct a large-scale research and development program, headed by a leading expert
on landfill technology, Professor Morton Barlaz of North Carolina State.
Professor Barlaz and his team will study waste degradation rates under
both laboratory and field (landfill) conditions of petroleum- and
natural gas-derived plastics that have been treated with PEC member companies’
additives to produce the standard specification. Once developed, the standard
specification will reliably project the landfill biodegradation rates for a
given PEC-certified product in a given range of landfills over a given range of
moisture conditions with much more certainty than is possible today.
“While we already know from various independent
laboratory tests that our member companies’ additives are expected to be
effective at speeding up the biodegradation of petroleum and natural
gas-derived plastics in landfills, this will be the first-of-its-kind study to
verify biodegradation rates of plastic waste treated with such additives under
both laboratory and field conditions,” says Senator Robert McKnight, PEC Board
chairman. “The new standard will allow us to develop a simple certification
seal that will inspire confidence in these additives from businesses, consumers
While most plastics from hydrocarbons are
recyclable, they are not biodegradable without the addition of chemical
additives and remain in landfills virtually forever. Chemical additives, many
of which are approved for use by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), are
added to the plastic resins during the manufacturing process and do not alter
the final product’s performance, are undetectable by the end user, and products
containing them can be processed through current recycling methods.
The PEC expects the landfill biodegradability
certification seal to be available in approximately 18 months.
PEC member companies include Wincup, Ecologic,
Bio-Tec Environmental, ECM Biofilms, Pure Plastics, C-Line Products, Inc.,
Ecolab, and FP International.
Plastics Environmental Council (PEC)