03. Oct 2023

EUBP addresses media misinformation about Paper Cup study

EUBP addresses media misinformation about Paper Cup study

European Bioplastics (Berlin, Germany) supports the development of robust methodologies for assessing the environmental hazards associated with various materials when they become litter. However, elements of the press release may be considered misleading.

The press release “Paper cups are just as toxic as plastic cups” from the University of Gothenburg recently got to the attention of European Bioplastics (EUBP) and its members.

EUBP believes that the development of robust methodologies for assessing the environmental hazards associated with various materials when they become litter is of utmost importance. Without such methodologies, any policy measures taken in response to these findings risk being unfounded and arbitrary. Therefore, this article represents a significant step forward in the pursuit of creating a comprehensive framework for evaluating the environmental consequences of littered materials.

However, EUBP would like to point out that the press release contains certain elements that may be considered misleading. Specifically, it addresses the biodegradability of biodegradable plastics, a topic not directly covered in the referenced article Carney Almroth et al. (2023). Single-use take-away cups of paper are as toxic to aquatic midge larvae as plastic cups [1].This diversion from the article's focus on empirical data to an interview format, where personal opinions are presented, could lead readers to believe that these statements are based on the same scientific research. Regrettably, this is not the case.

Furthermore, the press release erroneously suggests the study implies that PLA (Polylactic Acid) may still be toxic. It is essential to clarify that the study's findings pertain to the toxicity of single-use cups, which are composed of various materials, including paper, adhesives, inks, and PLA. The research does not conclusively attribute toxicity to PLA specifically. We must emphasise that this misrepresentation has contributed to significant confusion regarding the correlation between biodegradability and toxicity, as well as the unverified assertion that all single-use items are inherently toxic due to the presence of PLA.

By publishing this press release, the University of Gothenburg has damaged the reputation of the bioplastics sector. As an association, EUBP needs to ensure accurate scientific communication is shared with the general audience and European stakeholders. Sadly, this press release is contributing to disseminating inaccurate information and bringing confusion to a sector that is already facing many misconceptions and false claims.

Which is why, in light of the above, EUBP asked the University of Gothenburg to consider issuing a supplementary press release to clarify that the cited article does not explore the biodegradability of the manufactured products or their individual components, and to emphasise that the study does not establish a direct link between toxicity and PLA.

EUBP raised its concerns regarding these inaccuracies in writing to both Olaf Lönnehed, Press officer of the University of Gothenburg, and Bethanie Carney Almroth, Lead researcher of the study. They indicated that, after internal discussion, the Press Office had determined they would not issue another statement.

EUBP believes that such a clarification would have contributed to a more accurate understanding of the research's findings and prevented further misconceptions in the public discourse. Unfortunately, these concerns do not seem to be shared. AT

[1] https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2023.121836


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