Symphony Environmental Technologies Plc

Michael Laurier
About: Michael Laurier - CEO

Michael is the Chief Executive of the Company. Michael's career began with his long established family packaging business. He took over responsibility for sales and production in the mid -1970s and changed the emphasis of the company's business from jute products to polythene packaging, introducing the then innovative high density and medium density polythene bags into the UK market in 1975. He was appointed Managing Director of Brentapac UK Plc, in 1985, with continuing responsibility for national and international sales. He co-founded Symphony Environmental Technologies Group in 1995 which owns the following well known brands d2w d2p, and d2t.

1. Can you elaborate on Symphony Environmental Technologies' perspective regarding the draft UN Plastic Pollution Treaty, particularly concerning plastics that enter the open environment?

There is a gaping hole in the draft Treaty, because there is no provision at all for plastic which will for the foreseeable future get into the open environment, where it will lie or float around for decades. Symphony is a global company and we have seen the damage it does to the environment, especially in the less-developed world. The Treaty should require all short-life plastic products to be made oxo-biodegradable, as some UN member-states have already done in the Middle East.

Plastic products are immensely useful, especially for those in the Global South as they are very effective for protecting food and water from contamination and deterioration, so they should not be banned.  There is nothing wrong with polyethylene or polypropylene.  It is made from a by-product of oil which used to be wasted, so until the world no longer needs petrol and oil for engines it makes sense to use this by-product.
2. How does Symphony Environmental Technologies propose addressing the issue of plastics that cannot be collected and remain in the open environment for extended periods?

We have been working for 25 years to develop a technology known as Oxo-biodegradable plastic – so called because if it gets into the open environment as litter it oxidizes and is then bioassimilated by naturally-occurring bacteria and fungi, leaving no microplastics or other harmful residues. We provide this technology under our d2w brand to the plastics industry as a masterbatch which is added to normal plastic at little or no extra cost. See . This technology can also be used to confer biodegradability even on plastics made from crops such as sugarcane.

3. What are your thoughts on the draft treaty's focus on reducing, redesigning, reusing, and recycling plastics, and how does Symphony's approach align with or complement these efforts?

We support these efforts, and we have designed oxo-biodegradable plastic so that it can be re-used and recycled, but until the day when (if ever) those efforts are completely successful all over the world,  plastic will continue to get into the open environment, and especially the oceans. It cannot be allowed to accumulate there for decades, so it has to be made oxo-biodegradable.

Producers of plastics do not cause the litter, but no responsible CEO wants a plastic product bearing his company’s name or logo to be found on a beach 50 years from now. Making their products with d2w will therefore benefit the environment and improve their ESG rating.

4. Could you explain how oxo-biodegradable plastics, such as those developed by Symphony, offer a safe alternative to traditional plastics in terms of reducing pollution and environmental impact?

They will perform in exactly the same way as ordinary plastic, and cost much the same, but instead of persisting in the environment for decades and generating microplastics, they will become biodegradable and be removed by naturally-occurring bacteria and fungi.  

5. In your opinion, what are the key benefits of oxo-biodegradable plastics compared to other alternatives like compostable plastics, especially concerning their performance in real-world environmental conditions?

Life-cycle assessments show that plastic has much better environmental credentials than other packaging materials such as paper, cardboard, aluminium, steel, or glass, and if it is made with d2w technology it will not persist in the environment.

The type of plastic advertised as “compostable” will not deal with plastic which escapes into the environment because it is tested to biodegrade in an industrial composting unit – not in the open environment, and a report from the University of Tokyo in March 2024 has confirmed that PLA will not biodegrade deep in the oceans.  Even if it is taken to a composting facility the Standards (EN13432 and ASTM D6400) require it to convert into CO2 (a greenhouse gas), not into compost.

6. How has Symphony Environmental Technologies collaborated with regulatory bodies or governments, such as UN member states in the Middle East, to promote the adoption of biodegradable plastic technologies?

The government of the UAE was concerned about plastic in their open environment, so they sent experts to our laboratories and carried out due diligence on our technology. They reported to their government who in 2009 legislated to require a list of short-life plastic products to be made with an approved technology such as our d2w masterbatch. Since then it has not been lawful to make in or import into the UAE any plastic product on that list (including their labels) which is not oxo-biodegradable. They have not experienced any problems. Seeing the success of this legislation, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Yemen followed their lead.

The situation is very different in the EU where lobbyists persuaded the Environment Committee of the European Parliament to ban what they called “oxo-degradable” plastic.  The Committee did this without any impact assessment or socio-economic analysis, and without waiting for the report of their own scientific experts, the European Chemicals Agency, who were not convinced that microplastics were formed.  We will be asking the new Parliament to be elected in June 2024 to investigate this matter and reverse this legislation.

7. Could you discuss any challenges or misconceptions surrounding biodegradable plastics, including concerns about encouraging littering or the effectiveness of biodegradation in different environments?

Unfortunately, competing industries, and some people who are against plastic of any kind,  have been lobbying against our technology by saying that we create microplastics, even though they know that the microplastics are coming from the fragmentation of ordinary plastics (including “compostable” plastics) and that our technology deals with the problem by making them biodegradable.

They also say that oxo-biodegradable plastic will contaminate a recycling stream and is incompatible with a circular economy. That is not correct (See but it is correct for “compostable” plastics - which are not recyclable.  

They also question whether oxo-biodegradable plastic will fully biodegrade, but tests have been done by Intertek showing biodegradation of 92.74% (The percentage required by EN13432 for “compostable” plastic is 90%), and no reason has been shown why biodegradation should stop before it is complete. Tests will never find 100% carbon-evolution because some of the material converts into water and biomass. Even if it did not fully biodegrade, it would still be better than ordinary plastic, which would have created persistent microplastics but would not have biodegraded at all.

They also say that they cannot be sure how long the d2w plastic will take to biodegrade in the open environment, but it is not disputed by anyone that it will be many times faster than ordinary plastic when exposed under the same conditions in the open environment. Queen Mary University London say up to 90 times faster.

They also say that oxo-biodegradable plastic encourages littering, but much of the litter escapes by accident and is blown by the wind.  Insofar as it is deliberate, would the kind of person who throws a plastic bag out of a car or train window bother to look for a label to see that it is biodegradable? There is in fact no reason to label the product as biodegradable because it is designed to be used and disposed of in the same way as ordinary plastic. Littering is more likely with paper and cardboard (which are known to be biodegradable), and plastics labelled as “compostable.”  

8. What role do you see technology playing in improving waste management practices globally, and how can innovative solutions like oxo-biodegradable plastics contribute to these efforts?

There is no doubt that waste-management processes need to be improved, even in the developed world, and there is nothing about oxo-biodegradable plastic products which is incompatible with this, as we have designed them to be recyclable and to be made with recyclate, and to be safe for landfill or incineration. However, it will be a very long time before waste-management systems have been perfected and before members of the public are fully cooperating.  In the meantime all the short life plastic must be made oxo-biodegradable.

9. Considering the global push for sustainability and environmental responsibility, what future developments or initiatives is Symphony Environmental Technologies focusing on to further advance the field of plastics and mitigate plastic pollution?

After 25 years R&D we are confident that our d2w oxo-biodegradable technology is safe and effective, so more recently our scientists have been developing other technologies for using plastics to protect people from danger. (See For example we have developed a type of plastic which will kill bacteria and viruses (including the COVID virus) which come into contact with it.  Another will prevent insects and rodents from damaging plastic pipes and electrical cables.  Another can be used to pack fruit and vegetables and keep them fresher for longer by adsorbing the ethylene. Yet another will prevent plastic pipes and plastic sheets from bursting into flames and emitting smoke.

10. Lastly, how do you envision the collaboration between industry leaders, governments, and environmental organizations in shaping policies and strategies to address plastic pollution on a global scale?

We have noticed a tendency for governments and environmental organisations to consult everyone except our industry when forming their views about our technology, and we are yet to have an in-depth technical discussion with our own government in England despite many requests.  We hope that this will change, as our Director of Technical, Radu Baciu, has studied and developed this technology for more than 25 years and I doubt that there is anyone in the world who understands it better than him. Governments are beginning to realize that they can talk as much as they like about reduce, re-use, and recycle, but they will still be left with a serious environmental problem.

I would have thought too that the oil companies who supply the plastic resin and the plastics industry who use it would have understood by now that promoting recycling was not going to solve their problem. They are under attack at the UN because their products lie or float around for decades when they get into the open environment, from which they cannot realistically be collected for recycling.

I have no doubt that governments, retailers, the plastics industry, and the NGO’s will soon realise that the only way to prevent plastic in the environment from accumulating there for decades is to make it with oxo-biodegradable technology.