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The term ‘oxo-biodegradability’ is a hybridization of two words, oxidation and biodegradability. It defines clearly a two step process initiated in this case by the Reverte® additive to degrade the polymer chain (break up) and make it available for biodegradability within the environment when a treated item has finished its useful life.

The phase of oxidation reduces the molecular weight and introduces oxygen into the structure. This process transforms the polymer from long strands to much smaller lengths. By reducing the chain length of the polymer the material loses its physical strength and elongation properties making it brittle and none ‘plastic’. The biodegradability aspect refers to the conversion of these lower molecular weight species by bacteria into biomass, CO2 and H2O in an aerobic environment, or in the case of an anaerobic environment, CH4.

The oxo-biodegradability option that uses oil or natural gas by-products, provides several advantages over the alternative, hydro-biodegradability that uses vegetable products such as starch.

Comparisons between Oxo-Biodegradable and Hydro-Biodegradable Technology

Reverte® Oxo-Biodegradable Hydro-Biodegradable
Made from a by-product of oil or natural gas Usually made from vegetable products such as starch
Can be recycled as part of a normal plastic waste-stream Damages recyclate unless extracted from feedstock
Can be made from recyclate Cannot be made from recyclate
Time to degrade can be set at manufacture Cannot be controlled
Emits CO2 slowly while degrading Emits CO2 rapidly while degrading. As 90% of it must convert to CO2 within 180 days in order to comply with the Standards for compostable plastic, these plastics contribute to climate change but do not improve the soil.
Inert deep in landfill Emits methane deep in landfill
Can use same machinery and workforce as for conventional plastic Needs special machinery and workforce
Suitable for use in high-speed machinery Usually not suitable
Compostable in-vessel Compostable (but not for home composting)
Little or no additional cost Four or five times more expensive than conventional plastic
Same strength as conventional plastic Weaker than conventional plastic (unless mixed with oil-based plastic)
Same weight as conventional plastic Thicker and heavier
Leak-proof Prone to leakage
Degrades anywhere on land or sea Degrades only in high-microbial environment
No genetically modified ingredients Possibility of GM ingredients
Safe for food contact Safe for food contact
No PCB's organo-chlorines, or "heavy metals" No PCB's organo-chlorines, or "heavy metals"
Can be incinerated with high energy-recovery Can be incinerated, but lower calorific value
Production uses no fertilisers, pesticides or water Production uses fertilisers, pesticides and water
No limit on availability of feedstock Limited availability of feedstock
Demand for oxo-biodegradable plastics does not drive up cost of fuel for vehicles Demand for hydro-biodegradable plastics drives up price of human and animal foodstuffs

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