Competition to convince a highly sceptical industry of the environmental benefits of degradable plastics has intensified. Before the last self-destructing carrier bags to hit the market have a chance to get under landfill covers a new solution has arrived promising bio-degradability at a competitive price to polyethylene.

Closely following the launch of the claimed first 100% degradable polyethylene carrier bags from Symphony Environmental, Polyval has introduced Enpol biodegradable carrier bags made from polyvinyl alcohol as an alternative to PE. It may also be used for bin liners, food packs and compost bags.

The advantage of Enpol is that it doesn’t contain hazardous chemicals in its production, says Vyvyan Howard, a leading toxicologist at Liverpool University, responsible for testing the material. It is also 2.5 times stronger than PE so lowers transport costs and saves energy. Existing PE plants can be modified to produce the polymer.

Enpol will biodegrade to acetic acid, broken down by bacteria, air and moisture. In compost this process will take around two weeks and seven months in landfill.

The material can be programmed to degrade according to temperatures set between 5-95 deg C.

First commercial applications are expected to be in the US for compost bags.