Read in the following a guest commentary by Francesco Degli Innocenti and Tony Breton from the European Bioplastics Working Group Standardisation. The authors’ opinion on Spaghetti and Currywurst does not represent EUBP’s official position on Mediterranean and German dishes.

Tony Breton, EUBP Working Group Standardisation

Francesco Degli Innocenti, EUBP Working Group Standardisation

Headlines have never been so important. Scroll, stop, to click or not to click the title is what convinces us to open the content. Even in scientific journal articles, the title and the few lines of an abstract have developed a clickbait habit. Universities competing for students and funding are looking for visibility, researchers for well-deserved professional satisfaction and journals are judged by their “impact factor”.

Understandably, if there is competition, a little publicity is needed. The electronic age has brought science to the mainstream. Mainstream doesn’t do dull. Mainstream demands shock. Passing from one blog to another, the title gets modified; the message is simplified and crystallized, becoming a fact, scientifically established by consensus based on the number of clicks and shares. Moreover, the adverb “scientifically” cuts out any discussion. Few check the source, even fewer read the whole article and very few have the skills to enter into its merits. We have returned to the days of “ipse dixit”.

Recently a group of researchers from the University of Frankfurt published the article “Are bioplastics and plant-based materials safer than conventional plastics? In vitro toxicity and chemical composition”. The answer to this rhetorical question is bioplastics and plant-based materials are as toxic as conventional plastics. More generally, rhetoric is a tool widely used by politicians and not recommended in scientific articles. When reading the article, one can notice that there is a gap between the title and the content. In fact, the title is about safety, but the article does not provide enough data to address chemical safety. The article justifies the genesis of the demand as the bioplastics industry advertises its products as “more benign” than conventional plastics. This is another logical fallacy, a “straw man argument”.

The goal of the bioplastics industry is to make truly biodegradable and / or bio-based products. In the case of “safety” i.e. safety of food contact (FC) materials, bioplastics like all materials comply with the laws and regulations in force. Nobody is involved in a competition to gain the status of “less toxic”. There is no ranking. Compliance is a binary condition: yes or no. By ascribing this ambition of “less toxicity” and then immediately “proving” it to be false, the authors c