Three UK retailers have leapt at the chance to use the first 100% biodegradable plastics bags that can be programmed to destruct.

Developed by Symphony Environmental, the product material d2W will turn to water, a small amount of carbon dioxide and soil compatible mineralisation over a given period of time.

Symphony head of retail Tom Robinson says degradation is programmable thanks to a natural aggressive agent. “It can take six weeks for composting or it can last up to four years. For retailers there is a safety margin for the mechanical properties. The bags are programmed to last 18 months after manufacture and will degrade after a further 18 months.”

Concerns have been expressed by Incpen over the environmental benefits of degradable materials in landfill – the final resting place of most plastics bags. Mr Robinson counters that, unlike other degradable materials, d2W does not rely on biological activity and will follow its timed path to destruction even in landfill sites virtually starved of air and moisture.

The company is also involved in development of plastics collection schemes, ultimately required if the UK is to meet Landfill Directive targets to reduce the amount of degradable material going into landfill by 2010.

The Co-op, Somerfield and Kwik Save will be joined by two more major retailers by the end of this year.