Plastic that becomes biodegradable when no longer required may ease environmental worries, says Michael Laurier

Food companies and retailers have come under heavy fire for the plastic waste they are accused of generating.

Yet is this fair? Without plastic packaging it would be impossible to transport food hygienically to millions of homes. Think of the waste and danger to health - and the consequent increase in food prices.

Also, plastic is made from a by-product of oil which used to be wasted, so it makes environmental sense to use it.

The only problem with plastic is that it can lie around for decades if it gets into the environment, but my company has an effective answer to this.

We supply a formulation called D2w that can be included at the manufacturing stage and makes plastic self-destruct on land or in water at the end of its service life. This form of plastic is known as oxo-biodegradable.

The D2w breaks the molecular chains in plastic and converts it into a material that is no longer a plastic but can be bio-assimilated by micro-organisms found in the environment. It simulates the way nature disposes of wastes such as leaves and straw, but much more quickly.

It can be made to degrade from as little as six months onwards, leaving no fragments, and without emitting methane when buried in landfill. It can also be recycled with other oil-based plastics and can be incinerated for high energy-recovery. It has been certified safe for food contact and is not eco-toxic.

Oxo-biodegradable plastic can be made with the same machinery and workforce as ordinary plastic so there is no need to disrupt the supply chain and little or no on-cost. It is being used by retail chains and food groups around the world, and last year we sold enough to make five billion plastic products.

Within the UK, Tesco and The Co-operative Group are using it for packaging. Other users include Linda McCartney Foods and the Bimbo Group, one of the largest bakeries in the world.

It scores highly in alleviating the environmental worry factor and offers an effective, workable and low-cost solution.

Michael Laurier is CEO of Symphony Environmental Technologies.