Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 26

bioplastics
Electric switch made from
PHA. This application is
not yet commercial.

PHA:
As green as it gets
But still not green enough, says Anindya Mukherjee, a founding member of Go!PHA,
the non-profit initiative created to accelerate the development of the PHA-platform
industry. Bio-based and biodegradable even in the marine environment - PHA seems
tailored to supply the demand for sustainable materials created by the ramifications of
the upcoming Single Use Plastic Directive. The EU, however, sees a problem.

I

n May, 2018, the European Commission proposed
a number of new EU-wide
rules targeting the 10 single-use plastic products most
often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as as well
as lost and abandoned - 'ghost'
- fishing gear. Together these
items, which include, among
others, plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates and straws, account
for some 70% of all marine litter. The proposal was adopted
in 2019, which means that the
deadline for implementation by
the EU Member States is this
year in July.
The Directive is aimed at
tackling the problem of marine
pollution head on, and it contains various measures to do so.
It calls for circular approaches
that give priority to sustainable
and non-toxic re-usable products and re-use systems rather than to single-use products,
aiming first and foremost to reduce the quantity of waste generated. Next to outright bans,
the directive provides for the
introduction of extended producer responsibility schemes
to cover the necessary costs of
waste management and litter

26

P026_P027_SP_20210209.indd 26

Anindya Mukherjee
clean-up, as well as the costs
of awareness-raising measures
to prevent litter in the first place.

Natural versus nature
Included in the directive is a
paragraph explicitly defining
the polymer materials covered
by this directive, and those that
are not. And it is here, according to Anindya Mukherjee, that
the confusion starts.
Plastics are defined as polymeric materials to which additives or other substances may
have been added, and which
can function as a main structural component of final products. The directive explicitly
states, however, that excepted

from this are natural polymers
that have not been chemically
modified.
On the other hand, the directive emphatically does cover plastics based on modified
natural polymers, or plastics
manufactured from bio-based,
fossil or synthetic starting substances that are not naturally
occurring. Examples are polymer-based rubber items and
bio-based and biodegradable
plastics, regardless of whether
they are derived from biomass
or are intended to biodegrade
over time.
In other words, natural products cannot be equated with
products occurring in nature.
Any natural polymer or polymers occurring in nature that
either are replicated in an industrial process such as fermentation or have thus been
modified, are therefore covered
by this directive.
The question of which natural polymers are covered by the
term 'plastic', and which may be
exempt, is therefore crucial and
can be answered only by determining what a 'natural polymer
is' and what exactly is meant by
'chemically modified'.

The questions are important ones, particularly in relation to polymers such as
cellulose derivatives and the
PHA family, said Mukherjee.
Or, for that matter, wood pulp,
starches, cotton and proteins,
to name but a few. " The discussion about cellulose and
cellulosics like paper, lyocell
and viscose was elucidated in the latest guideline, "
he said. " A way was found
to 'grandfather' in some of
these materials like paper and
Lyocell even though it is clear
that paper, for example, is
a chemically modified cellulose. However, these materials are now exempt from the
directive. "
The solution was reached
by accepting that a natural
polymer does not mean it has
to exist in nature in its native
form. " It just has to be a part of
nature, " Mukherjee explained.
But the group of polyhydroxyalkanoates, he added, is
less fortunate: these biopolymers are currently covered by
the directive, despite being a
natural product and despite
their outstandingly sustainable credentials.

January/February 2021

1/29/21 12:19 PM



Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021

Contents
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - Cover1
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - Cover2
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - Contents
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 4
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 5
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 6
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 7
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 8
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 9
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 10
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 11
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 12
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 13
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 14
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 15
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 16
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 17
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 18
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 19
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 20
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 21
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 22
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 23
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 24
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 25
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 26
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 27
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 28
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 29
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 30
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 31
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 32
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 33
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - 34
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - Cover3
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2021 - Cover4
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