EU bio-based, biodegradable & compostable plastics framework: can recommendations help control pollution?


On 30 November, the European Commission will publish its Circular Economy Action Plan. It includes a framework indicating in which cases it makes sense to use bio-based, biodegradable or compostable plastics. Spoiler alert: applications should be extremely limited. Can these recommendations be of true help against plastic pollution?

This week, the European Commission is expected to publish a set of non-binding guidelines about how the market should use bio-based, biodegradable, and compostable plastics.

First of all, let’s be clear: ‘bio-plastic’ is still… plastic. Bio-based plastics are simply sourced from biological resources rather than fossil material. Biodegradable plastic is most often fossil-based and relies on virgin materials. Even when designed to be biodegradable, these plastics often include the same toxic chemicals as conventional non-biobased and non-biodegradable plastic.

Unnecessary plastics, especially short-lived single-use items, must be eliminated. As for the remaining plastics, careful consideration is required to ensure they contribute to a circular plastics economy. Bio-based, biodegradable, and compostable plastics should be used for niche applications only – and have an extremely limited role in the economy.

To crack down on this kind of plastics, governments worldwide must introduce clear frameworks so as not to perpetuate linear consumption patterns.

The EU is just about to take a small step in this direction. What should the European Commission’s proposal include to truly contribute to a more sustainable and circular plastics economy?

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Ecostandard, 29-11-22