Following the EU Directive’s development on Packaging and the Packaging Waste (94/62/EC), an EU harmonized standard for compostable and biodegradable packaging EN 13432:2000 “Packaging: conditions concerning packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation” was introduced in 2000.
It was recommended by national standards bodies in several European Union Member States, for example, distributed as BS EN 13432 through the British Standards Institution, the ‘BS’ prefix meaning ‘British Standard.’ Its area is especially compostability plus anaerobic digestibility about packaging.
The Packaging products that agree to the ‘compostable’ examples of the relevant standard are suitable for composting (the tests simulate industrial-scale composting conditions). Those that do to its anaerobic digestion criteria are perfect for that method of organic improvement.
Summary of BS EN 13432: ‘Compostability standards’ criteria
Critical tests and Pass and Fail criteria are:
- Disintegration: the packaging unit is mixed with organic waste and supported under test scale composting conditions for 12 weeks. After this time, no more than 10 % of material fragments are allowed to be longer than 2 mm.
- Biodegradability: every measure of the actual metabolic, microbial conversion, under composting requirements, of the packaging sample into the water, carbon dioxide, and new cell biomass. In a maximum of 6 months, the test samples biodegradation must produce an amount of carbon dioxide at least 90 % as much as the carbon dioxide is given off from the control and reference material.
- Absence of any adverse impact on the composting process.
- The lower levels of heavy metals (Potentially Toxic Elements) have no unfavorable effect on compost quality. In mg and kg of the dry unit, higher limits are zinc 150, copper 50, nickel 25 and cadmium 0.5, lead 50, mercury 0.5, chromium 50, molybdenum 1, selenium 0.75, arsenic 5, and fluoride 100.
- The composted packaging material need not have an unfavorable influence on the bulk density, pH, salinity, volatile solids, total nitrogen and total phosphorus, total magnesium, total potassium, and ammonium nitrogen qualities of the compost.
According to internationally agreed test methods, each of these tests is undertaken as defined in BS EN 13432. Independent laboratory test results are then comparing with the strict pass and fail destinations set in the standard. Only if a material passes each ‘compostable’ test demand is it proven to be ‘compostable.’
Independent certification scheme – compostability standards
For various standards, including BS EN 13432, independent certification bodies allow product assessment and certification services for compostability standards. In the case of compostable packaging, upon accepting an application, a certification body would examine the packaging samples’ nature and components and ensure it is sent to an appropriate laboratory for the correct tests to be carried out.
When accepted, the certification body would then check whether the laboratory test results report on the packaging sample confirms that it has BS EN 13432’s ‘compostable’ criteria. If it has, a single packaging product certification quantity and certificate is awarded, and it may carry the scheme’s certification mark (logo) ‘compostable.’
In the UK, the Association concerning Organics Recycling contains a certification scheme in partnership with the German certification body Din Certco, aligned to BS EN 13432. Packaging certified to BS EN 13432 is a suitable figure material for commercial compostability standards and included those that comply with BSI PAS 100 for composted goods and the Compost Quality Protocol.
To gain certification for the packaging, extensive documentary confirmation of the product test results are essential. Like an organic waste collection bag, a product may consist of material (including intermediates), additives, like colorants, and printing inks. The final combination and development, not just its constituent parts, must pass all the tests.
To clarify the process, certification bodies such as Din Certco maintain a “positive list” of base materials, intermediates, and additives certified for use to create compostable packaging commodities. Once submitted, the certification organization will review all the presented evidence.
If they accept that the product meets all the relevant standard requirements (BS EN 13432), it displays certified. Certified commodities or product families, like a style of bags within a specified size and breadth range, are then issued a single 7P certification number and are authorized to carry the European Bioplastics’ “compostable seedling logo.” (European Bioplastics is the logo owner and permits certification bodies to award its use to producers and converted certified compostable packaging and plastics.) every product that provides the ‘compostable’ seedling logo must also display its 7P number. This permits end-users to trace the improvement to its source.
A product certificate is only tested for three years, later which it necessity be renewed if the product continues to use its 7P number and the ‘compostable’ seedling logo. To assure the integrity of the whole process, at frequent intervals altogether, the three years. The certification group in the UK, the Association for Organics Recycling, will seek units from the market, then be sent for additional testing. This market examination aims to verify whether ‘compostable’ goods at the market is, in fact, the similar one that passed the ‘compostable’ tests with a similarly 7P numbers.
To non-packaging plastics, a ‘sister’ standard exists, EN 14995:2006 “Plastics Evaluation of compostability Test scheme and specifications.” The tests and pass and fail criteria in EN 14995 are the same as those in EN 13432. The only distinction is that it implements another plastic material and product that is not packaging.
Home compostable packaging and plastics
In improvement to certification to BS EN 13432, it is also permissible for a product to be deemed ‘home compostable.’ Today, there are no particular international or national standards for home compostable packaging and plastics.
The current EU standards and their nationally chosen versions involve test methods that simulate industrial-scale composting and anaerobic digestion.
A Belgian ‘OK Compost Home’ specification is operated by the certification group Vinçotte. who also manages their ‘OK Compost‘ (aligned to EN 13432) certification scheme. This specification contains the same requirements as EN 13432, but the test temperatures and durations are different.
Due to the expanding prevalence of compostable packaging and plastics products in the UK market, the Association for Organics Recycling operates with several stakeholders to establish a similar specification for the UK. Currently, if a product claims it is ‘compostable,’ then that claim is only connecting to industrial compostability except it has been certified ‘home compostable by Vinçotte displays the “OK Compost Home” logo.
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