There are a variety of products, packaging, and bags on the market today which identify themselves as oxo biodegradable.
It must be noted however that oxo biodegradable products are not the same as compostable products and plastics.
More specifically, oxo biodegradable plastic is NOT compostable and will contaminate a commercial or home composting environment.
The key differences between oxo biodegradable products and compostable products are as follows:
Renewable vs. Non-Renewable Material Sources - Compostable products and packaging are made from organic renewable resources such as corn, bagasse, wheat straw, and bamboo. Oxo biodegradable plastics are made from hydrocarbons derived from petroleum or natural gas and additives that help these petroleum based products to break down when exposed to sunlight.
- Compostability - Compostable products are certified for their compostability according to ASTM D6400, ASTM D6868, and EN13432. These standards ensure that compostable products biodegrade by 60-90% within 180 days, disintegrate by 90% to pieces that are no greater than 2mm in size, and leave behind no heavy metals beyond that of a control group. Oxo biodegradable plastics and oxo biodegradable products are not certified according to these scientific standards or any other standards: a) Oxo biodegradable plastic can take 1-5 years to biodegrade, and b) Oxo biodegradable plastic also leaves behind residues and small pellets after its degradation.
- Acceptance at Commercial Composting Facilities & Recycling Facilities - Oxo biodegradable plastics are not accepted at commercial composting facilities, but they are accepted by some recycling facilities. Greater than 90% of certified compostable products and packaging are accepted by commercial composting facilities that also accept food waste. Compostable paper products that have been un-spoiled by food waste are acceptable at recycling facilities. PLA products (e.g., corn cups) and other compostable plastics stained by food waste are not acceptable at recycling facilities.
Cost - On the whole, oxo biodegradable products are cheaper than compostable products. This is likely due to the fact that oxo biodegradable products are made from petroleum as opposed to renewable resources. The most common application of oxo biodegradable material is in plastic bags. Compostable bags made from PLA have been criticized for their price and for not being as strong as traditional plastic bags. Oxo biodegradable bags, being made from petroleum, are typically stronger than compostable bags and can also be 2-3x cheaper. Some other compostable products though made from bagasse and wheat straw may be comparable in cost to oxo biodegradable products.
Compostable products, packaging, and plastics are generally considered a significantly more sustainable alternative to oxo biodegradable products, packaging, and plastics.