Irish agri machinery giant Samco is seeking clarity on the issue of the EU’s new Single Use Plastic (SUP) Directive – and in particular, the extent to which this impacts on maize plastic and what direction the industry is to go in, going forward.
In a statement referencing the single use plastic ban introduced earlier this month, the Limerick-based firm said: “The main root of the problem is that oxo-degradable is included in the SUP, and how the film used for the maize crop uses Oxo-Biodegradable (oxo-bio) technology not oxo-degradable.
“It has been reported in the media that the maize film is oxo-degradable which is an incorrect statement and is an important point of the situation we find ourselves in,” the company said.
Highlighting that oxo-degradable and oxo-biodegradable are two different types of degradation – and are given two different definitions in the European CEN standards – Samco managing director Robert Shine explained:
“Since the SUP was voted on in Europe, Samco has asked for clarity from European offices as well as the Department of the Environment in Ireland on whether or not oxo-bio was also included – as the definition in the SUP directive was neither of these technologies.”
Shine highlighted that his company first sought clarity in August 2019 – with this only arriving on May 31, 2021, in a European Commission guideline document
“This was the first document to mention the oxo-bio had been included in any document,” he stressed.
“The issue goes back even further as the European Chemical Health Agency (ECHA) was tasked with testing the oxo-bio technology to ascertain if it created microplastics. After 10 months the ECHA work was closed down as the European commission had already voted without the report been finished.
“This goes against the REACH 69 protocol which is Europe’s own law to remove political and industrial lobbying and allow science to give it report without influence,” he claimed, adding that the maize film has met ‘many’ oxo-biodegradable standards, including ASTM6954.”
The agricultural industry
Highlighting that the May 31, guideline gave the Irish industry just four weeks to prepare for the ban, the Samco CEO added that the other items in the SUP are all consumer-based products like plastic cups, cotton buds, plastic bottles and fishing gear.
“Nowhere does it mention mulch film or agriculture in the directive – and all products mentioned are consumer-based products,” he said.
Shine said that, true to the form of the firm over the years, Samco is investing in research into more sustainable and renewable products, adding:
“We have been researching compostable film types and more sustainable base products over the last number of years – but do not have a drop-in replacement for the oxo-biotechnology yet available commercially.”
Highlighting that agriculture is a seasonable industry that requires more than a few months to develop and test new technologies, Shine said:
“With the plastic coffee cups and other single use plastic products they can develop and trial every day [as] replacement products, but [this] is not the case with agricultural products.
“While these industries have had years to prepare and source alternatives the maize industry has had weeks.
“This must be realised by the Irish government and allow the industry time to change and adapt – otherwise give compensation financially to the industry who have invested both financially and personally in this industry over the years for equipment and specialised planting machinery whose use has been rendered obsolete now by the sudden implantation of the directive.
“Those involved in the industry would rather time to allow it to find alternatives and adjust, rather than compensation and a sudden finishing of the industry like the beet industry had in the country.
“The benefits of growing and feeding maize in Ireland have been well documented over the years and the industry is fully willing to work with the Departments of the Environment and Agriculture on other alternatives, so that we can meet the standards required.”
Noting that 80% of Samco’s turnover comes from the sale of the maize film and the rest from the equipment associated with the maize industry, the CEO said:
“Employing directly 60 staff as well as countless others in the region as sub contractors – these jobs and livelihoods now face an uncertain time in the coming weeks.
“This is why there is a resolution needed in the coming weeks – not months – for the Irish government to engage productively and give answers with certainly to the industry, rather than the uncertain and muted responses we have given over the last two years from the departments,” Shine concluded.