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02-25-2020

The Fate of Compostable Packaging Products

Wageningen University & Research Presents a New Study

A recent study by Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Netherlands, analyzed the fate of compostable packaging products in a full-scale industrial organic waste treatment facility. The results show that the tested EN13432 certified products break down within a maximum of 22 days. The project was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (EZK).

Seedling certified EN13432 compostable paper/PLA tea bags – before and after 22 days of composting in an industrial composting facility (© Wageningen University & Research)

Seedling certified EN13432 compostable paper/PLA tea bags – before and after 22 days of composting in an industrial composting facility (© Wageningen University & Research)

“The study shows that the tested objects have the same disintegration and degradation rate as regular biowaste or are even faster. We need more research of this kind, conducted by independent and renowned institutions”, says EUBP Chairman of European Bioplastics (EUBP), François de Bie.

Central aim of the study was to gather more empiric data on the question whether the disintegration rate of compostable products is sufficient to be compatible with the current organic waste treatment practices.

In an industrial organic waste treatment trial, a set of nine different compostable plastic products, consisting of organic waste collection bags, plant pots, tea bags, coffee pads, coffee capsules, and fruit labels were tested. “We studied how compostable plastics behave in the current Dutch system for the treatment of GFT (i.e source separated municipal biowaste) and came to the conclusion that compostable products can be processed well with GFT“, says Maarten van der Zee, co-author of the study.

After the first waste treatment cycle of only 11 days, the PLA plant pot already completely disintegrated. “This is significantly faster than paper and most organic matter. Even the orange peel and banana skin (the reference materials) did not completely disintegrate and needed more time” de Bie commented on the study. “The PLA tea bag, which is a typical consumer product, also successfully disintegrated within 22 days.”

Composition of the Current Visual Contamination of Conventional Plastics

The study also analyzed the composition of the current visual contamination of conventional plastics in compost, and no compostable plastics were identified amongst the plastics that were found in the compost. Bie stresses: “All stakeholders involved in the business of organic recycling, be it waste managers, industry, or legislators, now have the proof that certified compostable plastics actually deliver.”

European Bioplastics also welcomes the fact that the Dutch Waste Management Association (Vereniging Afvalbedrijven, VA) and Holland Bioplastics (HB), the association representing the Dutch bioplastics industry jointly defined the research questions, which provided the basis for setting-up the project. Besides, VA selected and provided the test facility while HB contributed the test products. It is important that waste industry and bioplastics industry are working together.

About European Bioplastics

European Bioplastics (EUBP) is the European association representing the interests of the bioplastics industry along the entire value chain. Its members produce, refine, and distribute bioplastics i.e. plastics that are bio-based, biodegradable, or both.

Additional information
  • 01-13-2020

    Looking at the Circularity of PS

    Trinseo and Greiner Packaging Cooperate

    The companies announce plans to advance implementation of recycled polystyrene in packaging.   more

  • 05-22-2019

    “Bio-Based Material of the Year 2019”

    nova-Institut Presents the Winners of the Innovation Award

    Compostable sanitary pads from India, sustainable fibers from Finland and home compostable coffee capsules from Germany are honored.   more

  • 03-12-2019

    Heading for a Circular Economy and Sustainability

    FKuR on the Subject of Circular Economy with Emphasis on Bio-Plastics

    Biobased plastics, which are generally drop-in products for their petroleum based counterparts, are adequate for material recycling, whereas biodegradable plastics are intended for organic recycling.   more

Company profile

European Bioplastics e. V.

Marienstr. 19/20
DE 10117 Berlin
Tel.: 030 28482-350
Fax: 030 28482-359

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