Oxo-degradable plastics: do they biodegrade? In search of a definite answer

OWS, IKT-University Stuttgart to set up a multi-client project aiming to find a “once and for all”

Oxo-degradable plastics. Many of you have probably already heard of them. They are claimed to be biodegradable, although not everyone agrees. Currently the European Commission is considering a possible ban on oxo-degradable carrier bags. Also in France a group of MPs in the French National Assembly have called for a similar ban. Predictably, the oxo-degradable plastics industry reacted furiously.

Last year, OWS performed a large desk research study for Plastics Europe on the benefits and challenges of bio- and oxo-degradable plastics. A copy of this study can be found here. Key aspect of this study was the evaluation of the validity of the existing claims on biodegradability of oxo-degradable plastics, from which it could be concluded that independent proof (or disproof) is today not (yet) available.

In this context, OWS, together with IKT-University Stuttgart, is setting up a multi-client project with the aim to find a “once and for all” (independent) answer on whether oxo-degradable plastics are biodegradable or not. To make this study as objective and neutral as possible, we are aiming at a broad participation including government agencies, consumer goods producers, NGO’s, oxo-degradable producers, bioplastic industry, etc.

Details on the technical program and a summary of the project proposal can be found here.


Bruno de Wilde
E-Mail: bruno.dewilde@ows.be


About OWS

Organic Waste Systems (OWS) is a world leading company in the construction and operation of anaerobic digestion plants, in the biodegradability and compostability testing of different types of materials, and in waste management consultancy.

OWS is a private company under Belgian law, constituted in 1988. The headquarters of the company are in Gent (Belgium) with subsidiaries in the USA and Germany.

The three main activities of the companies are:

  • Construction of anaerobic digestion plants
  • Biogas consulting & support
  • Biodegradation testing and waste management consultancy

OWS has developed several digestion processes and offers lab & consulting services to various clients from the public and private sector. Consulting services are offered in the field of biodegradation and compostability, waste composition, waste separation, recycling, integrated waste management and related legislation in both Europe and the U.S. OWS also provides contract research laboratory testing for the determination of the biodegradability and compostability of plastics, packaging materials, consumer products, detergents, etc. under strict quality conditions.


OWS N.V., press release, 2014-09-08.


European Commission
French National Assembly
Organic Waste Systems (OWS)
Plastics Europe
Universität Stuttgart


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