Oxo-Biodegradation of Plastic Materials

Question: What is Oxo-Biodegradation?  

Answer: Oxo-biodegradation is an ingenious means of intentionally diminishing the life-cycle of plastic materials.  

Plastic polymers are used in almost every aspect of modern manufacturing. Plastic materials  have become ubiquitous components of all modern human activity. The low cost and reliable  structural properties of plastic materials have been embraced by every modern culture and society. 

However, that same structural reliability has created an ever-increasing global crisis of plastic pollution. Virtually all of the world’s remarkable and useful plastic materials cannot be recycled or reused. Common plastic materials typically take centuries, millennia to decompose. The world’s landfills, rivers, and oceans are now overwhelmed by discarded, unusable plastic artifacts. The longevity of our remarkable plastic materials is now strangulating the entire planet. 

Question: How does oxo-biodegradation work?

Answer:  Oxo-biodegradation employs a controlled, two-step process of oxidative cleavage of long-chain molecules, resulting in small-chain organic chemicals which are biodegradable by bacteria.  
The oxo-biodegradation process intentionally adds a ‘pro-degradant catalyst’ (usually a salt of manganese or iron) to the molten polymer as it is being molded or formed into its final, manufactured shape.  These ‘catalyst’ molecules, suspended throughout the plastic artifact, catalyze the plastic material’s abiotic degradation process at a controllable, accelerated rate, reducing the density of the plastic material.  This reduction of density encourages ever-increasing ingress of atmospheric moisture and microorganisms, leading to overall degradation in the presence of oxygen much more quickly than ‘non-catalyzed’ plastic materials.

Citation:  Yooeun CHAE & Youn-Joo AN (2018). “Current research trends on plastic pollution and ecological impacts on the soil ecosystem: A review”Environ Pollutiondoi:10.1016/j.envpol.2018.05.008.

Question:  Is oxo-biodegradation commercially feasible? 

Answer:  Oxo-biodegradable additives are currently available through specific commercial providers.

Oxo-biodegradable plastics are increasingly being used to manufacture ‘single use’ items.  Oxo-biodegradable plastics are not yet commonly used in the fabrication of structural artifacts, as manufacturers continue to promote material strength and product reliability as marketable product attributes.     

The invention of oxo-biodegradable plastic materials intentionally allows the user to compost plastic materials after a predetermined timeframe.

Question:  What do Environmentalists Say?

Answer:  “Oxo-biodegradable plastic degrades and biodegrades in the open environment in the same way as nature’s wastes, only quicker.”  [see citation below]

Oxo-biodegradable plastic does just what it says, the clue is in the name – It is called oxo-biodegradable plastic because it is biodegradable.  Oxo-biodegradable technology converts plastic products into biodegradable materials at the end of their useful life, and it does this by oxidation in the presence of oxygen.  There is nothing misleading about it.

There are some scientists who are not expert in oxo-biodegradable technology and there are mischievous individuals or companies who are spreading misinformation because they wish to give their own product an advantage in the marketplace that it does not deserve on merit.  A scientific team from Blaise Pascal University (France’s leading research center into degradable plastics) took issue with the erroneous ‘not very expert reports’ and misinformation by which the EU has been misled on this issue:   http://www.biodeg.org/CNEP%20Stmt%20Nov%202014%20(En)-Lemaire%20appvd(1).pdf 

Oxo-biodegradable plastic degrades and biodegrades in the open environment in the same way as nature’s wastes, only quicker.  What’s more, it does so without leaving any toxic residues or fragments of plastic behind.  If oxo-biodegradable plastic merely fragmented without biodegrading, CEN (European Committee for Standardization) would not have defined oxo-biodegradability as ““degradation resulting from oxidative and cell-mediated phenomena, either simultaneously or successively” and the American, British and French standards organizations would not have included tests for biodegradability in ASTM D6954, BS8472 and ACT51-808.

Oxo-biodegradable plastic has been studied by scientists for many years: http://www.biodeg.org/bibliography.html   most recently at the Technical Research Institute of Sweden and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and a peer-reviewed report of the work was published in Vol 96 of the journal of Polymer Degradation & Stability (2011) at page 919-928.  They found 91% biodegradation within 24 months.

Furthermore, ten governments in the world have examined this technology very carefully and realized that oxo-biodegradable plastic offers a solution to plastic waste that escapes into the open environment and cannot realistically be collected.  They have legislated to make oxo-biodegradable plastic mandatory, because it does not just fragment.  It biodegrades.

The process continues until the material has biodegraded to nothing more than CO2, water, and humus. It does not leave fragments of petro-polymers in the soil.

Citation:  Statement prepared by:  Symphony Environmental Technologies  https://www.symphonyenvironmental.com/frequently-asked-questions/


Oxo-Biodegradation of plastic materials is an ingenious process which expedites the naturally occurring molecular break-down of plastic materials.  

Anyone familiar with plastic artifacts will have observed the gradual breakdown of plastic materials when exposed to sunlight, heat, and moisture.  Common, ‘single use’ plastic artifacts, i.e., containers, toys, hygiene products, packaging, filters, tape, disposable tableware, adhesives, etc., when exposed to sunlight, heat, and moisture gradually lose their structural properties, color, and usefulness.  

However, to the great detriment of our planet, this gradual degradation is measured in centuries.  A toothbrush handle in a landfill today will still be entirely recognizable in the year 2800.             

Oxo-biodegradable plastic materials are made by blending an engineered additive into the plastic material to promote natural degradation.  The additive does not interfere in any way with the plastic material’s structural properties.  However, over a ‘controllable’ timeframe, the additive within the plastic gradually oxidizes, thereby reducing the density of the original material.  This gradual ‘porosity’ allows naturally occurring microorganisms to permeate the plastic material and begin to digest the organic components of the material’s molecular structure.  This increases the porosity of the material, encouraging ever-increasing degradation.  The decomposition of oxo-biodegradable plastic materials is measured in decades as opposed to centuries.

 Image credit:  willowridgeplastics.com

A ‘stand out’ benefit of oxo-biodegradable plastic is that it can be recycled as part of a normal plastic waste stream.  Citation:  http://www.biodeg.org/recycling.html    

However, our true responsibility to our planet is to assure that all discarded plastic materials are removed from the natural environment.  If we can’t physically remove plastic materials from the environment then we are obligated to assure that they will degrade and return to their natural state within a reasonable timeframe.    


Willow Ridge Plastics, Inc.


Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Federation

c/o 9 School Road, West Felton, Oswestry, Shropshire. SY11 4HH United Kingdom http://www.obpf.org/