Product claims pertaining to compostability or the content of renewable resources are generally hard to check for consumers.
Certification links the EN 13432 / EN 14995 standard to the protected “compostability label” (seedling) that allows the identification and proper handling of compostable plastic products on the market. Certification ensures that the product can be composted and that not only the plastic but also all other components of the product are compostable, e.g. colours, labels, glues and – in case of packaging products – residues of the content.
Testing in certification according to EN 13432 / EN 14995 encompasses:
- Chemical test: Disclosure of all constituents, threshold values for heavy metals are to be adhered to.
- Biodegradability in under 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).
All tests, not individual elements, must be passed with the same material and the tests have to be conducted by approved test laboratories (address list is available from certifying bodies).
It is recommended to commercial users or retailers of compostable bioplastic products to ask distributors about their product certification and to demand the certification number. Even if it is not intended to compost the product, certification guarantees a high product safety. Certification, moreover, distinguishes between biodegradable and conventional plastic and offers marketing and communication possibilities.
Producers have signed a voluntary self-commitment on product certification acknowledged by the European DG Enterprise.