Sulapac guest blog: Join our campaign to fight microplastics pollution

Nature and innovative solutions need support today! The new EU Single-Use Plastic Directive is a step towards the plastic waste-free future. Unfortunately, it’s also an example of a way too broad plastic definition. Even materials that biodegrade, such as fried egg, ice cream (and Sulapac) could be defined as plastics, even though they leave no permanent microplastics behind. These kinds of absurd definitions are an obstacle in our fight against the global plastic pollution crisis.


By Dr. Suvi Haimi Co-founder, CEO, Sulapac

suvi.haimi@sulapac.com


On 31st May 2021 the European Commission published guidance to support the implementation of Single-use plastics directive (SUP) approved in May 2019. Our concern is that due to the broad definition of plastic, the directive will not be effective in meeting its objectives to reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment and promote new sustainable material innovations.


Under the new rules, specific measures are introduced to reduce the use of most frequently littered single-use plastic products found in marine environments. The bans will come into force in July 2021 and include single-use plastic plates, cutlery, straws, stirrers, balloon sticks and cotton bud sticks.


We fear that the broad definition of plastics will steer future policies to wrong direction. The problem will repeat itself, if the unclear definition for plastics in SUP is adopted to other new regulations. At the moment, e.g., a reform of Extended Producer Responsibility is under development in several countries, and many member states consider introducing specific plastic packaging taxes. We are concerned that there will be increasing amount of legislation that does not recognize materials which do not leave permanent microplastics behind, but groups them together with traditional plastics. This would not only limit innovation but also slow down the fight against the plastic pollution.


The approach needs to change: we suggest a new category for materials which do not leave permanent microplastics behind. The revision of SUP is planned for 2027, which is too late. For nature and new material innovations six years is a long time to wait. Nature and innovative solutions need support today. Join our campaign to fight microplastics pollution!

Go to Sulapac campaign page: https://www.sulapac.com/redefineplastic/

According to the new EU directive, all synthetic polymers and chemically modified natural polymers are plastics. These can be found in fried egg and ice cream. Furthermore, all products containing these polymers (even tiny amounts) fall in the scope of the directive, no minimum threshold is given.


Microplastics means small (< 5mm) plastics particles. They have been detected in the air, in the water and in our food.* These tiny particles are formed when plastics litter breaks down, but can also be emitted during use, for instance, when just opening plastic packaging.** They accumulate in nature, and eventually end up in our bodies. Permanent microplastics are difficult to eliminate and don’t always even disappear when burned.*** Regarding environmental and health risks, a pressing question is how long (micro)plastics last in the environment (or in human body). The risks associated with something that lasts 1-5 years in the environment, versus the same thing that lasts 500 years, are completely different.

*Brahney, J., et. al., ‘Constraining the atmospheric limb of the plastic cycle’, PNAS April 20, 118 (16) e2020719118 (2021) **Sobhani et al., ‘Microplastics generated when opening plastics packaging’, Scientific reports, 10, 4841 (2020) ***Yang, Z., et al., ‘Is incineration the terminator of plastics and microplastics?’, Journal of Hazardous Materials, 401, article 123429 (2021)

Just like fried egg, ice cream and wood in nature, Sulapac material biodegrades without leaving permanent microplastics behind. As all other biopolymers, such as collagen and native cellulose, Sulapac materials disintegrate first into tiny particles. However, in contrast to conventional plastics, after disintegration, Sulapac materials biodegrade on molecular level into CO2, water and biomass and therefore don’t leave permanent microplastics behind.


Sulapac® is an award-winning, patented bio-based material innovation for the circular economy. It accelerates the plastic waste-free future with sustainable materials are beautiful and functional. Like nature. Sulapac was founded in 2016 by Dr. Suvi Haimi, Dr. Laura Tirkkonen-Rajaso and Dr. Antti Pärssinen. The company has been ranked one of the 100 hottest startups in Europe by WIRED UK. Join the forerunners. Together we can save the world from plastic waste. www.sulapac.com


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


In November 2020, FinnCERES organized a webinar "Will the Bio-Bubble Burst" linked to the single-use plastics directive, featuring D.Sc.(Tech.). Maija Pohjakallio from Sulapac: