PETALING JAYA: Proper certification of biodegradable plastic is needed to confirm its ability to break down into smaller, harmless molecules over time.
Environmentalists have called for such certification so that industries producing biodegradable plastic maintain the highest production standard possible, ensuring that their products will not be detrimental to the environment.
Biodegradable plastic is good in theory if it can disintegrate into tiny, harmless molecules, EcoKnights vice-president Amlir Ayat said.
“This will ensure that the end products are safe for the environment and humans,” he told theSun.
“However, the question is whether it is actually biodegradable. It should not disintegrate into pieces that still contain health-endangering molecules known as nanoplastics.”
He was commenting on a report that biodegradable plastic will soon be banned in Australia.
According to the report, many plastics labelled biodegradable are actually traditional fossil-fuel plastics that are simply degradable or even “oxo-degradable” – where chemical additives make the fossil-fuel plastic fragment into microplastics.
The fragments are usually so small they are invisible to the naked eye, but still exist in landfills, water ways and soils, it added.
“There needs to be a thorough certification process or eco-labelling to ensure that the public is fully aware of products that are biodegradable.
“Some biodegradable plastics are only degradable in certain conditions, including high temperatures, pressure, and nutrient concentration. These conditions certainly cannot be met under normal circumstances in landfills or seas, in a short time.
“This will definitely, despite the plastic’s biodegradability, harm not only biodiversity but also human health.
“From the sustainability point, the safest way is to reduce as much as possible any plastic products, including biodegradable ones.”
Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Malaysia CEO Andrew Sebastian echoed this view, saying a clear road map needs to be drawn up to cut down the use of plastics, including biodegradable ones.
“There is enough technology to execute this, to call it degradable isn’t good enough. There must also be more awareness created.”