Many of today’s bioplastics already feature the properties of their conventional – oil-based – counterparts, and this is not the end of the line. What is more, they feature certain add-on qualities such as renewability and biodegradability.
Standards define criteria for the description of products and services. Standards specify how for example measurements of renewability or biodegradability of a material need to be performed. Other standards rule a set of criteria to be fulfilled. A product or service that fulfils these requirements can legitimately claim compliance to the specific standard.
An important task underway is to define a standard for the biobased property of bioplastics. There is not yet an overarching and EU-wide accepted standard. But the European Standardization Committee CEN/CENELEC has already been tasked by the EU Commission to develop according technical specifications.
Most experts agree that renewable carbon is key to determining the share of renewable material in biobased products. Several private companies have started offering certification of renewable carbon content for biobased products. In addition to renewable carbon, several large brand owners are communicating other parameters such as “plant content” or “biomass content”.
If bioplastics have proven their compostability according to international standards, they can be treated in industrial composting plants. Under oxygen-rich conditions, biodegradation produces carbon dioxide, water and biomass. As only natural substances are “left over” during this process, composting is an additional end-of-life option for certified compostable products with very short life cycles, such as bags and catering equipment.
Plastic products can provide proof of their compostability by successfully meeting the harmonised European standard, EN 13432 or EN 14995. Those two standards define the technical specification for the compostability of bioplastics products:
- EN 13432:2000 Packaging:
- Requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation
- Test scheme and evaluation criteria for the final acceptance of packaging
- This is a harmonised European standard linked to the European Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC). It allows for the presumption of conformity with essential requirements of the Directive. It has been translated and implemented in all the European Member States.
- EN 14995:2006 Plastics:
- Evaluation of compostability
- Test scheme and specifications
- Almost identical to EN13432. It broadens the scope of plastics when used in non-packaging applications. The EN 13432 applies when plastics are used for packaging.