The PAS9017 standard states that plastic will be required to break down – creating organic matter and CO2 – within two years of being left in open air to be classed as biodegradable. It covers a group of plastics that make up more than 50% of all plastic pollution, polyolefins, which are used in the manufacturing of items such as plastic water bottles, packaging for supermarket items like fruit and veg, and plastic carrier bags.
The standard was introduced to provide clarity and combat an example of ‘greenwashing’, where companies were able to mislead consumers (either ignorantly or deliberately) by using the word ‘biodegradable’ to describe plastic products that in fact take centuries to break down in the environment. You can read more about greenwashing in our Planetary ‘Let’s Discuss article here.
Sadly, the standard does not apply to plastics found in our oceans, which are predicted to outweigh the fish in our seas by 2050 if plastic pollution is not addressed immediately. You can read more about this issue here, or check out our Planetary Solutions to find out how you can help!