A joint collaboration between Corrs Chambers Westgarth and The University of Queensland.
What does the term “biodegradable” actually mean? And what is the role of biodegradable plastics is in the pursuit of (and demand for) sustainability? What sorts of issues arise from their use, given the state of knowledge, policy, law and (particularly) public expectations? And how do we avoid “greenwashing”?
Researchers from the Centre for Bioplastics, through a joint collaboration between Corrs Chambers Westgarth and the University of Queensland, have written a discussion paper and presented a webinar on the biodegradability of plastics to answer these questions. They focus on some of the current challenges surrounding the concept of ‘biodegradability’ in the Australian context and look at actions that can be taken to help manage future scenarios if biodegradable plastic products take on a significant market share.
Find out more by reading our discussion paper here or watching our webinar below.
We know we don’t have all the answers. We are seeking input from all stakeholders in the community to help us identify all the issues. Have we missed something? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to provide your expert input.
Don’t have time to read the paper/watch the webinar?
Plastics have become a core component of the functioning of modern society. The increased demand for and use of plastics has resulted in extensive plastic waste throughout the world, which has been described as one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time. There are many facets to the problem of plastics, including that fossil fuels are typically used in the manufacture of these materials, that enormous amounts of plastic pollution exist globally, and that there is a very low plastic recycling rate in Australia. Biodegradable plastics present a potential solution to some of the issues relating to plastics, although there are a number of challenges that mean that the scope and role of biodegradable plastics in an increasingly circular economy is not straight forward.
Problem: Identify key issues associated with the use of the term ‘biodegradable’ in relation to plastics. Specifically, we need clarity on:
- What the term “biodegradable” means
- Issues arising from the current state of play in terms of knowledge, policy, law and expectations
- What the role of biodegradable plastics is in the pursuit of sustainability
- The mechanisms available to ensure clarity in meaning and consistency in usage of the term ‘biodegradable’, particularly in the context of marketing of products
Solutions: A multi-faceted approach is required to improve understanding and regulation of biodegradable plastics. It is likely to include several of the following:
- Information awareness campaigns for sustainability-related claims
- Quality assurance measures, such as standards, certifications, monitoring, and enforcement
- Labelling systems, guidance, and trademarks
- Regulation by the law
- Scientific research on the biodegradation of polymers and plastic products
- Biodegradable plastics present a potential solution to some of the issues relating to plastic wastes.
- Challenges were identified that the scope and role of biodegradable plastics in an increasingly circular economy is not straight forward.
- We recognise that there is unlikely to be a simple or single solution. A multi-faceted approach is required.