APR statement on the effects of degradable additives on plastics recycling

1:11 min Additives
Washington, DC, United States

Steve Alexander, President & CEO of the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), issued the following statement regarding the effects of degradable additives on mechanical recycling of postconsumer plastics:

Claims regarding the recyclability of degradable additives are unfounded, untested, and possibly misleading as outlined by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's Green Guide. No third-party testing data has confirmed these recyclability claims. APR urges companies making such claims to share their supporting data with the recycling community.

APR is concerned that degradable additives will have a negative effect on mechanical recycling of postconsumer plastics because these additives could compromise the integrity or useful life of plastic packaging or durable products made from recycled resins that contain these additives.

The use of such degradable additives in packaging may render the packaging non-recyclable because they lower the functionality and sustainability of recycled postconsumer plastics when included with recyclable plastics. Because degradable additives contaminate the plastics recycling stream, they must be kept isolated from recyclable packaging.

Any additive that involves time dependency and a decrease in molecular weight is a degradable additive and creates risk that packaging containing such additive is non-recyclable. The degradation of otherwise recycled plastics means lost opportunities for the repeated use of molecules through recycling, which according to the 2018 Life Cycle Inventory Analysis of Recycled Plastics, has less environmental impact than single use of molecules.

Although APR has provided test protocols for time dependent degradation for over ten years, due to the concern and risks involved, APR does not consider items containing degradable additives eligible for APR Design® Recognition Programs. It is also illegal in Alabama, California, and North Carolina to label a plastic product both "degradable and recyclable."

Additional Information:
Degradable Plastics FAQ
APR Position on Degradable Additives in Use in Bottles, Thermoforms, and Films

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