Symphony blasts Tesco over oxo bags and calls for end to NNFCC

13 COMMENTS – Oxo degradable additive firm Symphony Environmental Technologies has claimed that Tesco has decided to stop using oxo biodegradable bags to save money.


It emerged earlier this week that Tesco had stopped using the bags over issues reported to be related to the strength of the bags.

The move was praised by the National Non-Food Crops Centre, but has attracted criticism from other groups.

In the latest comments on the move, a spokesman for Symphony, which produces the d2w additive that allows plastics to degrade, said: “We think that the real reason why Tesco have taken this action is to save money.

“This is a pity, because the on-cost is very small, and Tesco had set an example to supermarkets around the world by supplying their customers with degradable carrier bags.

“Tesco is an environmentally responsible company but we think they have taken a retrograde step, and should think again. We will be happy to talk with them.”

The company’s comments follow the news that Tesco has decided to stop using oxo biodegradable bags because it claimed that they were “weak” and that customers were ‘double bagging’ at the tills.

Customer concerns

A Tesco spokeswoman said that in February 2011 it started to issue new carrier bags to its  stores without the biodegradable additive, but with up to 15% recycled plastic.

She added: “We took the decision to remove the biodegradable additive because we believed it contributed towards them becoming weaker (addressing customer concerns about the strength of our bags) and to help better promote their re-use and recycling at end of life.

“This decision was underpinned by a detailed review of the science, using external experts to help us understand the full life cycle environmental impacts of our carrier bags.”

The National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials (NNFCC) welcomed the move by Tesco’s to drop oxo biodegradable bags.

According to the NNFCC, oxo biodegradable bags are made of non-renewable plastics, which are able to degrade in the presence of oxygen and sunlight thanks to the addition of small amounts of metals.

In its statement, Symphony went on to call for the NNFCC to be scrapped. A spokesman said: “Campaigns to reduce the use of plastic bags, and to make them from recyclate, are all very well, but what is to happen to the bags and other plastic products which escape collection? They will lie or float around for decades in the environment if they are not degradable.

“We are not surprised by the comments from the National Non-food Crops Centre which is a promoter of a competing biodegradable technology based on vegetable-derived material. This technology is now widely understood to be of very limited use and far too expensive.

“The NNFCC is another quango which should be scrapped.”

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Tesco drops oxo biodegradable bags



  1. What Tesco has done by scrapping oxodegradable bags is to be applauded. Oxodegradation is a technology that is simply bad for the environment. Oxodegradable material will make a plastic fragment down to smaller and smaller pieces. The last thing we want to be floating in the environment is 1000’s of little pieces of plastic. They claim they biodegrade, but that is very questionable. For an oxodegradable material to degrade it has to be in the presence of oxygen and sunlight, i.e. up on top of the ground, blowing around as litter. There are few bacteria up there, so how can they claim they are in the right environment to degrade and at the same time say they are in a bacteria environment to biodegrade. It does not hold up.
    The oxodegradable plastics do not degrade in a landfill (no oxygen or sunlight) where most plastics end up. The manufacturers claim they do but only the part of a landfill that has oxygen and sunlight, i.e. the top surface waiting to get blown off into a nearby stream or ocean.
    The oxo degradable plastics cannot be recycled with other plastics as they would then make them oxo degradable as well when they may not want to be degradable.
    The manufactures claim they are good for litter control. This is seriously in error. The degradation process is a chemical reaction always going on in the plastic. However it takes a year or two for the material to fragment down. We do not want to have to leave litter lying around a year or two just so their additive can make it fragment down to small pieces.
    There is more and more evidence being collected that these fragmented pieces of plastic are being eaten by wild life mistaking them for food. This not only can lead to the premature death of the wildlife, but allows the plastics (and all their constituents) to then enter the food chain, possibly ending up on our dinner plate.
    What Tesco should have done is switch to Landfill-biodegradable additive. These are relatively new on the market, 2008. These have no effect on the plastic materials, the bags would be as strong as the original bags. They would not start to degrade till they were disposed to a landfill. They can be fully recycled, it is even encouraged.
    A Google search on Ecopure or Eco-One will yield details and suppliers of these two additives.

    • The main pb of the plastics is that it lies forever or least stay much too long before degrading and biodegrading in the environment in case of littering
      .Oxo gave an answer to that pb …by degrading and biodegrading in one or two years …or 3 whats wrong with this ? of lot of natural product do the same ,wood does….

      why trying to damage this technology the comment i see do not refer to any science ..only salesmen speach Ecopure ???
      nothing esplain how your product work and no publication has been done by sounded scientist
      degradation by oxydative process has been largely documented by independant scientist
      Yes we should reuse ,reduce ,recycle the bags …yes if the system is set up to do this ,it cost money,uses ressources the recycling is good if like anything it make sense .contaminated plastics need water to be cleaned,energy to be grounded ,nothing is magic …then because the material is recycled you need to increase the thickness……
      YES supermarket wants to save money buy from china thin and thinner bags 10 or 12 micron with uncontroled polymerand bad manufacturing process …these product cannot be recycled because too thin and not suprisingly they do not do the job..nothing to do with the additive ..only a bad manufacturing
      TESCO should use a good thickness at least 15 micron , they would be able to collect better ,use more recycled material in it and still use oxo because if these products escape in Nature …and they will …only oxo technologie can garantee disappearance in a controled timing .
      Their choice was sounded they unfortunatly didnt control their supplier ..hope they do better fo their food !!!
      now for the question of oxo being bad for the environement ,going into the food chain … what evidence have been produced to confirm that ……all of the serious manufacturer of oxo have european ecotoxicity tests done for their additive and finished degraded product …this involved tests on fishes and worms which are wild animals and no harms is done to it
      Mr it is unnecessary to fear people with unfounded affirmation

      What do you think happen to the rubber of the tyres of your car ? tell me
      It fragment and goes in the environment and will stay forever because the rubber they are made of is heavily stabilised … you think animal will avoid it ? oxo do biodegrade

      What happen to the durst of your no bag Dyson vacuum cleaned .after you clean it ?? .
      Be serious …
      Oxo is the best economical solution to stop the damage of plastics being left in the environment … plastics still the best solution for a lot of application even for bags …….Symphony way of communicate may be too agressive but they are right in the way they approach the problem …plus the fact that PE or PP can be done from sugar cane than… these bag can be can be degraded by oxydation using additive too ..and recycled …….with normal plastics . and reuse starch biobased product can do that …..the best of all world if growing sugar cane is a sustainable process !!!

  2. I would like to see some (or any) evidence from symphony that their additive is good for the environment. Of course symphony want the NNFCC closed, then there will be no one to stop them profiting from damaging the environment. Good on the NNFCC I say and if anything symphony should be closed down. Disgusting.

  3. Scrap the NNFCC and we may as well all go home. Oxo biodegradables are a deeply flawed solution to the plastic bag problem. Having oxo biodegradable oil-based plastic bags slowly breaking down in landfill to a thousand smaller pieces of oil-based plastic is not the solution. I want to see plastic bags being re-used, recycled or replaced with bioplastics. Everything else is just greenwash.

  4. If Tesco has problems with the strength of the carriers then surely they should have looked at reducing the amount of caco3 in their carriers. I don’t think the additive made much of a difference in reducing the strength of the carriers but that said these additives do nothing to help the environment and the best solution is always to re-use the bags as much as possible.

  5. Well done Tesco for working quickly to re place the bags
    Twice I have broken items, when the bags split.
    I agree with Helen, oil based bags is not the solution.
    Come on the suppliers of plastic bags,you are blinkered
    by the word biodegradable, and miss leading the supermarkets, when you should be looking to produce a bag which will do the job

  6. I thought Symphony stood for melodic harmony with nature. it seems that Tesco are no longer in tune with them and now singing the popular Recycle song.

  7. I encourage Carrefour Spain to do the same…the bio carrier bags they use for some time now are a complete nightmare and useless…they do not even support the weight of a bag of crisps ! Altough ( trying to be green ) is to be applauded, in case of forgetting my re-usable shopping bag it caused me to not go there anymore,…

  8. Correct education in stores for the consumer then – Reduce, Reuse, recycle. Its the only solution.

  9. Supermarket bags invariably have CaCO3 as filler and are produced in very thin gauges ( 15 microns to 20 microns), which is good for the environment because they consume less plastics.

    We have been distributing ‘Reverte’ Oxo-biodegradable additive in Middle East for the last few years and a few millions of these kind of bags are made and used in various supermarkets every month with ‘Reverte’ additive technology. Our customers have never come across the kind of premature degradation problems which Tesco has been facing. Although, the environment here is very warm, bags made with ‘Reverte’ offer a very long useful shelf life while they are in warehouses. Degradation happens if the bags are littered and they get exposed to UV /sunlight, in addition to heat.

    I wonder if Tesco have ever tried ‘Reverte Oxo-Biodegradable additive technology’.

    EA recent report on carrier bags proves Oxo-biodegradable bags are far more eco-friendly than Paper Bags or Compostable Plastic bags or even re-usable bags.

  10. Eduardo Van Roost

    The option to use or not environmental friendly is a Tescos´s right. Dishonest and an affront to the consumer’s intelligence are attributing the weakness of plastic carrier bags to the oxobiodegradable technology. I was recently in England and could see how is poor the quality of plastic shopping bags distributed by Tesco to their clients. The fragility of the bag is related with the cheaper price that Tesco wants to pay to its supplier and not in relation with oxobiodegradable technology. Tesco receive the quality corresponding that he wants to pay.
    Here in Brazil we have independent tests, under standards, that proofs that Symphony´s oxobiodegradable plastics shopping bags are so strong that conventional plastics, with the proved characteristic to biodegrades more quickly and safely than conventional plastics.
    I thought that in developed world, like UK, these problems did not exist and that only found in countries in developing. Unfortunately I am wrong, although UK is so developed, now I see that the lying excuses to save money exists anywhere, in detriment of the facts and true. The losers are the science, the planet, the environment and the society.

  11. Its not a surprise when somebody wants to leave a sound and exponentially growing technology to defend their decision by claiming the bags would be weaker!

    we have converted more than 2000MT of plastic bags in our small country into d2w oxo-biodegradable plastic bags without a single comment on strength of bags. and Symphony has converted double folds of this number as well around the world!!!

    i suggest Tesco investigate further their allegation of bag strength due to additive with the plastic factory producing their bags and ensure production is being done properly without the additions of bad quality calcium carbonate which could affect the strength of the bags if added in a wrong dosage and if the quality of the calcium carbonate is not good. This is a much more probable cause of bad quality of bags and NOT an additive which is mixed at only 1%!!!

    Pls be realistic and support such claims with valid third party testing and make these tests public before throwing such false allegations into the air!

    i am not sure about other types of additives but Symphony;s d2w have been around for many years now and have proven to be the leading additive in terms of quality and performance supported by third party testing to comply with international standards and regulations.

    For those who are claiming that d2w is not biodegradable i suggest they look more closely and dig deeper before claiming such false allegations, you people are carrying this statement ” they will only fragment but not biodegrade” because you are either falsely informed or are using a non credible additive close to d2w, read more, ask for test reports and certifications and decide , don;t think that by throwing words not supported by valid documentation your voice would be heard.

    Symphony and its team in the 92 countries worldwide will be happy to answer any of your queries.

    Internet is a good mode of communication but unfortunately it has become a mess sometimes creating pros and cons for very sound and proven technologies in our world, be wise, be smart.

  12. We welcome the opportunity to clear up some misunderstandings
    1. D2w plastics degrade in the presence of oxygen much more quickly than ordinary plastics and nature’s wastes such as straw and twigs. At this stage the plastic has lost its strength and can no longer entangle wildlife and block drains. It is no longer a visual intrusion in the landscape. The fragments join the trillions of other particles in the environment – JOB DONE
    2. D2w plastics have to pass the eco-toxicity tests in British Standard 8472 and American Standard D6954 to confirm that they do not release toxic residues which could harm the environment. Ordinary and recycled plastics, such as the bags Tesco are now using, do not have to pass these tests. There is no evidence that d2w plastics are harmful to wildlife.
    3. d2w changes the molecular structure of the plastic, so – having degraded by a process of oxidation, the material is no longer a plastic. It has become a material that is inherently biodegradable in the same way as a leaf. It does not need a highly microbial environment, and there are more than enough micro-organisms in the normal land or sea environment.
    4. D2w plastics do not need sunlight (this is necessary for photo-degradable plastics). All they need is oxygen.
    5. In April 2011 the British Plastics Federation submitted to the UK Government a scientific dossier which proves the biodegradability, non eco-toxicity, and recyclability of oxo-biodegradable plastics.
    6. d2w products are not intended to biodegrade in the short timescales required for composting. Composting according to standards such as ASTM D6400 and EN 13432 is a wasteful process because it requires the material to convert to CO2 gas within 180 days. This contributes to climate change but does nothing to improve the soil.
    7. We do not believe that Ecopure or Eco-One bags will biodegrade in landfill – let them prove it. In any event degradation in landfill is not a benefit unless the landfill is designed to collect the gases. Landfill operators prefer stability.
    8. D2w is designed to deal with plastic which gets out into the open environment (as some of it always will) and cannot realistically be collected for recycling or other forms of disposal. It is NOT designed for landfill.
    9. D2w plastics can be recycled with ordinary plastics, but bio-based plastics cannot. See
    10. D2w plastic bags can be re-used many times during their predetermined useful life.
    11. Like ordinary bags, degradable plastic bags have to be correctly made – otherwise they will fall apart prematurely – as Tesco’s bags did.