Biodegradability of Plastics

Biodegradability of Plastics

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About the ‘Biodegradability of Plastics’ project

The Group of Chief Scientific Advisors asked SAPEA to produce an Evidence Review Report on the following question:

From a scientific point of view and an end-of-life perspective, and applying to plastics that biodegrade either in the terrestrial, riverine or marine environments, and considering the waste hierarchy and circular economy approach: What are the criteria and corresponding applications of such plastics that are beneficial to the environment, compared with non-biodegradable plastics?

SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) was asked to produce this Evidence Review Report to inform the Scientific Opinion of the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors (GCSA).

AE Cardiff’s role in the ‘Biodegradability of Plastics’ project

Academia Europaea led the coordination of the SAPEA Evidence Review on the Biodegradability of Plastics in the Open Environment. Responsibility for management and delivery of the work was given to the AE Cardiff Hub. This was the first SAPEA review to be conducted entirely via virtual means. Despite the challenges, the report was delivered on-time.


The SAPEA Evidence Review Report and the GCSA’S Scientific Opinion are available here.

The evidence review report was presented to Chair of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors, Professor Nicole Grobert, at the official handover event on 14th December 2020. European Commissioners Gabriel and Sinkevičius were in attendance. President of Academia Europaea, Professor Sierd Cloetingh represented the SAPEA Board.

Key findings of the report

  • Biodegradable plastics do have a specific role to play in reducing the accumulation of plastics in the environment but they are not a ‘silver bullet’ for solving the problem of plastics pollution
  • Biodegradable plastics must be considered on a case-by-case basis, with thorough and rigorous testing, and clear information to consumers and business

Public engagement

Following the launch of the report in December 2020, there is an extensive campaign of promotion and outreach throughout 2021. Find out more.

Latest news about ‘Biodegradability of Plastics’

For latest news about Biodegradability of Plastics, click here.

More about our SAPEA work

Read more about the Hub’s work on SAPEA here.

SAPEA is funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are those of the authors only, and do not necessarily reflect those of the EU or the European Commission, neither of which can be held responsible for them.