The meeting with the Biodegradable Plastics Society of Japan was attended by every team member and many of the BPS member companies' representatives. This informal "welcome to Japan" meeting contained only a few discussion points. Professor Lenz thanked the BPS for its help in organizing the NSF team's visit and establishing its itinerary in Japan.

The major accomplishments at the meeting were: an update from Dr. Hideo Sawada of the Technology Committee of the BPS (Dowa Building 7F, 5-10-5 Shimbashi Minato-ku, Tokyo 105); open discussions on composting and anticipated market growth for biodegradable polymers; and information on the relationships between all major committees and government- supported organizations involved in funding research into biodegradables in Japan.

Dr. Sawada gave an update on the soil burial of plastics to assess how soil condition affects biodegradation. Although the study has almost been completed, no clear conclusions have been established. However, it is apparent that biodegradable plastics will break down at rates dependent on soil conditions. The control in the series, polyethylene, shows no tendency to biodegrade under any of the soil conditions. On the subject of biodegradation testing protocols, Japan has proposed and ISO has accepted the MITI test for biodegradation as an international standard. A meeting of ISO was scheduled to be held in Tokyo in September 1994, hosted by the Japan Plastics Industry Federation. BPS has developed a definition for biodegradability consistent with that of the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Compost was discussed from the perspective of the disposal of biodegradable polymers in Japan. The BPS members acknowledged that composting has long been used by farmers for agricultural waste, but were not sure how the disposal of plastics would occur. However, BPS members indicated that at the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Norway, all food containers and implements would be manufactured from biodegradable plastic and then composted to assess the effectiveness of this disposal method.

There was no expectation on the part of BPS members that biodegradables would represent anything but a niche market in the plastics area. They see only a market of 15 X 10(9) yen by the end of the century, an amount which is about equivalent to $150 million at the current rate of exchange.


Published: March 1995; WTEC Hyper-Librarian