False claims of so-called biodegradation-promoting additives are dangerous for the environment

MSU research found no evidence that any of the tested additives promoted and/or enhanced biodegradation

A new study on the “Evaluation of Biodegradation-Promoting Additives for Plastics” conducted at Michigan State University and published by the American Chemical Society in February 2015 confirms that claims of biodegradation-promoting additives, including oxo-fragmentation additives, of rendering conventional fossil-based polymers biodegradable are simply false. The research found no evidence that any of the additives tested promoted and/or enhanced biodegradation of PE or PET polymers.

As opposed to the tested materials, the biodegradability of truly biodegradable/compostable plastics is an inherent characteristic of the material itself – no additives are needed. Biodegradation of a material or product results from the action of naturally occurring microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and algae.

The underlying technology of oxo-fragmentation or biodegradation-promoting additives, however, is based on special additives that are purported to enhance the fragmentation of the product. The resulting fragments remain in the environment and do not biodegrade as defined in industry accepted standard specifications such as ASTM D6400, ASTM D6868, ASTM D7081, or EN 13432.

The authors of the study conclude: “Anaerobic and aerobic biodegradation are not recommended as feasible disposal routes for non-biodegradable plastics containing any of the five tested biodegradation promotion additives.”

European Bioplastics strongly advocates proven claims of biodegradability and industrial compostability that cohere to accepted industry standards and substantiating these claims by corresponding certification and labels, such as the ‘Seedling’ label.


European Bioplastics Bulletin 02/2015, 2015-04.


American Chemical Society (ACS)
European Bioplastics e.V.
Michigan State University


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