Certified EN 13432 Compostable & Biodegradable
The European Norm EN 13432, titled "Requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation. Test scheme and evaluation criteria for the final acceptance of packaging," describes a standard set of criteria for determining whether a material can be considered "compostable".
It was established by The European Committee for Normalisation (CEN) and is also published by (and can be ordered from) the British Standards Institution. This norm is a reference point for all European producers, authorities, facility managers and consumers.
EN 13432 is the most strict of all of the standards for evaluating biodegradability and compostability. Other related standards include ASTM D6400, DIN CERTCO 7P-0199, DIN V49000, DIN V54900, ISO 14855 and OECD 207, and many of others that describe tests that are included in the EN 13432 standard.
What exactly does "biodegradable" mean?
Nowadays, the terms "biodegradation", "biodegradable materials", "compostability" etc. are very common but frequently misused and a source of misunderstanding. The European Norm EN 13432 resolves this problem by defining the characteristics a material must own in order to be claimed as "compostable" and, therefore, recycled through composting of organic solid waste.
The definition of the compostability criteria is very important because materials not compatible with composting (traditional plastics, glass, materials contaminated with heavy metals, etc.) can decrease the final quality of compost and make it not suitable for agriculture and, therefore, commercially not acceptable. This norm is a reference point for the producers, the public authorities, the composting plant managers, and the consumers.
Characteristics of compostable material
- Biodegradability, namely the capability of the compostable material to be converted into CO2 under the action of micro-organisms. This property is measured with a laboratory standard test method: the EN 14046 (also published as ISO 14855: biodegradability under controlled composting conditions). In order to show complete biodegradability, a biodegradation level of at least 90% must be reached in less than 6 months.
- Disintegrability, namely fragmentation and loss of visibility in the final compost (absence of visible pollution), measured in a pilot-scale composting test (EN 14045). Specimens of the test material are composted with biowaste for 3 months.
- The final compost is then screened with a 2 mm sieve. The mass of test material residues with dimensions >2 mm shall be less than 10% of the original mass.
- Absence of negative effects on the composting process. Verified with the pilot-scale composting test.
- Low levels of heavy metals (below-given max values) and absence of negative effects on the final compost (i.e. reduction of the agronomic value and presence of ecotoxicological effects on the plant growth). A plant growth test (modified OECD 208) and other physical-chemical analysis are applied on compost where degradation of test material has happened.
Each of these points is needed for the definition of compostability, but alone it is not sufficient. For example, a biodegradable material is not necessarily compostable, because it must also disintegrate during the composting cycle. On the other hand, a material that breaks during composting into microscopic pieces which are then not fully biodegradable is also not compostable.
The norm EN 13432 is a harmonised norm. That is, it has been quoted in the Official Journal of the European Communities, it has been implemented in Europe at a national level, and it provides the presumption of conformity with the European Directive 94/62 EC on packaging and packaging waste.
Have a look at some of our 100% biogdegradable coffee capsules.
(original press release by Francesco Degli Innocenti, Environmental Affairs, Novamont, 2004-04-06)