Degradable Plastics:

Standards, Research and Development

T-RCED-88-64: Published: Sep 20, 1988. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 1988.

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GAO discussed federal and private-sector research and development (R&D) activities concerning degradable plastics to identify: (1) the extent of efforts to develop standards for degradable plastics; and (2) federal agencies' support of degradable plastics R&D. GAO found that: (1) the federal government and the private sector made limited efforts to develop standards and support R&D for degradable plastics; (2) federal expenditures in 1988 totalled $1.7 million for 12 projects; (3) the federal agencies that supported the R&D activities were not the most appropriate to develop standards; (4) there was no testing of degradable plastics to determine degradability and end-product safety in different environments; and (5) testing would not ensure the establishment of needed standards. GAO also found that: (1) because current legislation on the use of degradable plastics lacks needed standards, many state laws do not provide definitions of degradability, specify time frames, or provide end-product safety requirements; (2) private-sector activities to develop standards are too new to evaluate; (3) the four agencies working on federally funded R&D projects focused mainly on developing and improving new degradable products, rather than the need for standards; and (4) some scientists conducting federally funded R&D planned to incorporate testing in their R&D.

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