Amid concerns that manufacturers were misleading the public when using terms such as “biodegradable”, “bioplastic” and “compostable”, the UK government called for experts to help it develop standards for plastics.

Hence, plastic will have to break down into organic matter and carbon dioxide in the open air within 2 years to be classed as biodegradable under a new UK standard being introduced by the British Standards Institute.

90% of the organic carbon contained in plastic needs to be converted into carbon dioxide within 730 days to meet the new BSI standard, which has been introduced following confusion over the meaning of biodegradability.

The PAS 9017 standard covers polyolefins, a family of thermoplastics that includes polyethylene and lolypropylene, which are responsible for half of all plastic pollution in the environment. Polyolefins are widely used to make carrier bags, fruit and vegetable packaging and drink bottles. PAS 9017, titled Biodegradation of polyolefins in an open-air terrestrial environment, involves testing plastic to prove it can break down into a harmless wax in the open air.

The standard only applies to land-based plastic pollution which, according to the BSI, makes up three-quarters of fugitive plastic. It does not cover plastic in the sea.


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