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Bioplastics – Standards and Certifications

As bioplastics are not readily distinguishable from regular plastics, it is necessary to provide a mechanism ensuring their quality and labelling. This is done through a standardization and certification system

Standards

Standards are a set of rules that a product must comply with before it can obtain a certain label. The most important standardization bodies and their standards for bioplastics to be considered as compostable are as follows:

  • ASTM – American Society for Testing and Materials (USA)

ASTM D6400 – A compostable plastic is defined by the standards association ASTM International (ASTM) as “a plastic that undergoes degradation by biological processes during composting to yield carbon dioxide (CO2), water, inorganic compounds, and biomass at a rate consistent with other known compostable materials and that leaves no visible, distinguishable, or toxic residue.” (i.e. Biodegrade + Disintegrate + Eco-toxicity)

  • ISO – International Organization for Standardization (international)

ISO 17088:2012 – The four following aspects are addressed on compostability :

a) biodegradation; b) disintegration during compostinq; c) negative effects on the composting process and facility; d) negative effects on the quality of the resulting compost, including the presence of high levels of regulated metals and other harmful components.

  • CEN – European Committee for Standardization (European Union)

According to EN 13432 compostability standard –

  • Chemical test: Disclosure of all constituents, threshold values for heavy metals are to be adhered to.
  • Biodegradability in controlled composting conditions (oxygen consumption and production of CO2): Proof must be made that at least 90 percent of the organic material is converted into CO2 within 6 months.
  • Disintegration: After 3 months’ composting and subsequent sifting through a 2 mm sieve, no more than 10 percent residue may remain, as compared to the original mass.
  • Practical test of compostability in a semi-industrial (or industrial) composting facility: No negative influence on the composting process is permitted.
  • Ecotoxicity test: Examination of the effect of resultant compost on plant growth (agronomic test).

Certifications

In Europe independent certificates for biodegradable plastics are issued by DIN Certco and Vincotte.

  • DIN Certco issues certificates for compostable plastics based on the EN 14995 (or ISO 17088) and for compostable packaging based on the EN 13432 (or ASTM D6400) standard.
  • Vincotte issues certificates for compostable plastics based on EN 13432, as well as certificates for plastics that can be composted in home composting (OK home composting) and plastics that biodegrade in soil (OK biodegradable SOIL) and water (OK biodegeradable WATER).
  • Certificates for compostable plastics are also issued by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI, US) and the Japan BioPlastics Association (JBPA, Japan) as well as other less widely used organizations.

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