Easy claims, difficult choices on biodegradable polymers

Despite setbacks in the 1990s, several chemicals and packaging businesses are once again promoting biodegradable plastics with vigour - and there are signs that this time some important end-user businesses are showing an interest. However, while biodegradability is a plus in the compost heap, it is not of benefit in methane-emitting landfill sites. Since most manufacturers have little control over the fate of their products when they become waste, indiscriminate use of "biodegradable" labels on supermarket shelves could lead to an environmental backlash against the technology.

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