The incorporation of chemical catalysts into polyethylene (PE) causes fragmentation as a result of an oxidation of the plastics’ polymer chains triggered by UV irradiation or heat exposure. It allows the bag to break down in thin particles quicker than a standard plastic bag, and thus eliminates the visual pollution quickly. It is assumed that the breakdown products will eventually biodegrade.
Oxo-degradable plastics are not biodegradable, nor compostable, because it is not proved yet that they will completely decompose within a reasonably short period of time under customary methods of disposal. They are not suitable for recycling with main-stream plastics as they have an adverse effect on the quality and usability of the finished recycled product.
Several countries including Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Mauritania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Togo, Cameroun, Yemen, Iran, Montenegro, Albania, Maldives and some parts of Brazil and Argentina promote the use of oxo-degradable plastics or have even made their use mandatory.