The Court of Milan has ruled in favour of Italian biotech firm Novamont in its case against masterbatch producer Kromabatch Srl, over the latter’s claim that traditional plastics with added d2w could be considered ‘biodegradable’ or ‘oxo-biodegradable’ according to the European standard UNI EN 13432.
Kromabatch is a distributor of the oxo-biodegradable plastics additive d2w in Italy, which is marketed by its manufacturer as “the brand for controlled-life plastic technology.”
Novamont, who produces the biopolymer Mater-Bi, took the company to court on the basis that the information constituted unfair competition and mis-information to the consumer.
In its decision, the court ruled that merely because an additive was added that caused a plastic material to degrade more than traditional plastic did not justify the claim that it was “suitable for making biodegradable products in accordance with (…) UNI EN 13432″, as in that case, the material itself must comply with the standard, and pass the biodegradability tests prescribed therein. Kromabatch, said the court, had moreover misrepresented the nature of the product in question, advertising this as suitable for achieving a biodegradability level in conformity with the requirements set down in UNI EN 13432.
The court further found that it was the duty of every entrepreneur in the industry to “scrupulously check the accuracy of the commercial information conveyed ” on the market. It therefore forbade Kromabatch from making any claim that the additive d2w could “confer biodegradability” upon traditional plastics in accordance with standard EN 13432, ordered the company to pay damages, and to insert a notice of the decision of the court in the Corriere della Sera and in the Italian trade publication Polimerica. Kromabatch was also required to publish a notice of the decision on the homepage of its website for two months.
“It ‘s an important decision because it supports all companies operating in the innovative field of biodegradable plastics who respect the rules governing the communication to the consumer,” said the Commercial Director of Novamont Alessandro Ferlito. “Next to aiding purchasing decisions that contribute to improving both environmental conditions and the lives of consumers, observing these rules also serves as a significant driver of innovation in our industry,” added Ferlito.
The first-instance judgment of the Court of Milan may be appealed by Kromabatch within the period prescribed by the law.
Predictably, the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association erupted in response to the ruling, ridiculing the decision and accusing Novamont of using legal actions to try to put their competitors out of business. The OPA also suggested that “perhaps Novamont has too much influence in Italy. The Italian government have been persuaded to pass a national law to prefer Novamont’s products, which is contrary to EU law. The OPA has made a formal complaint to the EU Commission about it.”
The OPA also issued a press release that is best described as a spectacular mix of half-truths and sheer nonsense ( example: “When something is described as compostable an ordinary consumer would think that it can be converted into compost, but EN13432 requires it to convert into CO2 gas within 180 days. You cannot therefore make compost from it – only CO2 gas”) intermixed with an actual, incidental fact (“methane is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2”).
In it, the Association warned that “the bio-based plastic companies should not get excited about the profits they hope to make from the recent approval in Italy of a proposal to ban biodegradable plastic carrier bags except those which are compliant with EN13432. The legislative process has not been completed, and it would be the wrong decision for Italy, and the EU.”