Bioplastic Industry Standards

Standardisation is meant to give products a list of rules and criteria to follow so that it can meet the requirements for it to be considered up to standard. Having products that meet these standards is not required, but companies who do have certified products that meet these standards can guarantee certain qualities to consumers. Following these standards also reduces confusion and deliberate false claims as everything can be checked by a third party.

The key standardisation bodies creating standards in this industry are:

ISO (International Organization for Standardization)

CEN (European Committee for Standardisation)

ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)

Although each standardization organization has its own standards, they are mutually
harmonized. European and American certification organizations both recognize each other’s standards in the field of polymers, plastics and compostable products. Standards between the organizations are very similar, only differing in certain additional analyses that have to be performed. 

Examples of Standards For Biodegradable Plastics

EN 13432 requires “for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation” requires at least 90% disintegration after twelve weeks, 90% biodegradation (CO2 evolvement) in six months, and includes tests on toxicity and heavy metal content. It is the standard for biodegradable packaging designed for treatment in industrial composting facilities and anaerobic digestion.

ASTM D6400 “Specification for Labelling of Plastics Designed to be Aerobically Composted in Municipal or Industrial Facilities” is the American standard equivalent of EN 13432 with clear pass/fail criteria. 

EN 14995 describes the same requirements and tests, however it applies not only to packaging but plastics in general. 

ISO 18606 “Packaging and the environment – Organic Recycling” and ISO 17088 “Specifications for compostable plastics” are very similar to EN 14995.

The AS 4736 “Biodegradable Plastics suitable for Composting and other microbial Treatment“ is its Australian equivalent, that additionally includes an earthworm test. 

ASTM D6691 is the test method for determining aerobic biodegradation of plastic materials in the marine environment. OECD 306 “Biodegradability in sea water” and ISO 16221 are also very similar.

Notice the similarities between many of these, as these organizations work on creating international standards. The most internationally known and used standards are EN 13432 and ASTM D6400.

Certifications and Labels

A certificate is an official document used to guarantee a specific characteristic. For biodegradable plastics, a certificate means that a product is biodegradable under the conditions specified in the standard (like the ones listed above). For bio-based plastics, certificates exist to prove that a product contains a specific percentage of bio-materials.

A third party must give a certificate, with the most common certification organizations for bioplastics being the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) in the United States, as well as DIN CERTCO and
Vinçotte in Europe.  Certificates for biodegradable products can also be issued by other countries such as the Japan BioPlastics Association, and by other certification organisations.

Main Certification Organizations and Their Certificate Labels For Biodegradable Plastics

Main Certification Organizations and Their Certificate Labels For Plastics Based On Renewable Resources (Bio-based)

ASTM D6866 standard is the basis for certifying materials, intermediate products, additives and products based on renewable resources. The charts above are provided by PLASTiCE.

Why Are Standards, Certifications, Labels Important?

Standards, certifications, and labels are important in the bioplastics industry because it holds companies responsible for providing good products to consumers by preventing misleading statements and false claims. These standards and labels are created by expert groups that have developed these to govern this field, and thus the certification logo is proof that a product conforms to
specific requirements that is an undeniable advantage compared to products without the logo.

Usage of terms “100% biodegradable”, “biodegradable plastic”, “100% compostable bag” and “100% compostable” can create confusion if they are used to market the product without any certifications or improper labelling of the product, so be sure to always check if a company’s claims are backed up with the certifications above.

Some products can use misleading claims like “degradable”, “oxo-degradable”, “oxo-biodegradable”,“oxo-fragmentable”, or “enzyme-degradable”. To learn more about what this means, read our article on bioplastic and green-washed terms.

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