KNOWING THE DIFFERENCE & USING THE BEST MATERIALS:
It’s important for our customers to be educated on eco-terms so that we can all make informed decisions. We want folks to know that we put time and care into researching product materials.
Remember that the difference between composting and biodegrading is this: The process of composting provides nutrients and fertilizer to the Earth (making nutrient rich soil) and biodegrading is the process of breaking down bio-plastics into innocuous elements that do not harm the environment. The outcome of biodegrading is generally to have a material leave no negative impact while the outcome of composting is to have a nutrient rich by product (soil ) that can be used to grow plants again. So there is a difference in the achievable outcome of a material and there is a difference in the process of degradation. What matters most is that the bio-plastic in these processes does not simply break down into smaller plastic pieces, the material actually transforms into something new. That is why products labeled only ‘degradable’ or ‘oxo-degradable’ do not meet the certification standards of composting and biodegradation.
Compostable bioplastics provide a phenomenal solution to the single-use plastics problem. However, being educated on the certifications required for these products allows for us all to be informed businesses and informed consumers. Within the category of compostables there are two main standards of testing and processing that occur: Industrial composting and home composting. The basic differences between industrial compost and home compost are the volumes at which they can be performed, the conditions under which they occur, and the location where they occur. As per their names, home composting can be done in your own backyard (or anywhere in nature for that matter), while industrial composting occurs in specialized facilities where temperature and other factors can be controlled and adjusted. Home compost is meant for smaller volumes of waste (from a single household for instance), while industrial compost is for entire communities or municipalities, similar to your local landfill or dump. Industrial composting helps to divert food waste and other compostables from landfills, not only reducing the volume of waste in landfills, but helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions as well. A bio-plastic like PLA (poly-lactic acid) for example has the ability to be both industrially and home compostable depending on the form that material takes; our plastic wrap is made from PLA and has the ability to compost at home in under a year but a bottle made from PLA would have to be industrially composted due to the thickness of the material needed to make that form. This is why is is essential to only use products that have certifications. If we understand the conditions required for a bio-plastic object to return to the earth then we can make the choice to use materials that require little maintenance for our customers.
In order to be labeled as “industrially compostable” or “commercially compostable,” there are certain tests and certifications that products must pass. In the US, commercially compostable products are tested via ASTM D6400 protocols and criteria. ASTM is the American Society for Testing and Materials. Standard D6400 is the Standard Specification for the Labeling of Plastics Designed to be Aerobically Composted in Municipal or Industrial Facilities. This standard provides a timeframe in which both disintegration (physical breakdown) and biodegradation/compost production (chemical breakdown) must occur: 180 days. And it also requires that, in the end, the final product is of no harm to the surrounding ecosystem (ie: is non-toxic). The equivalent standard in Europe and other parts of the world is EN 13432, which requires the same timelines and results. Once a product passes testing, the results can be sent to a 3rd-party organization for certification. There are a variety of 3rd-party certifiers worldwide. In the US, the most well known is the Biodegradable Products Institute, or BPI. In Europe, the most known governing body is TUV Austria. They offer their OK compost INDUSTRIAL certification, which is the equivalent of a BPI certification in America. So, when examining a product that is industrially or commercially compostable, keep a look-out for ASTM D6400, EN 13432, BPI, and TUV Industrial logos. Products marked with these logos are certified compostable, and you can rest assured knowing that, if you dispose of them properly, they will live a completely circular lifecycle.
Finally it is crucial to address the common question of biodegradation occurring in landfills. Many of our customers ask how a biodegradable product can break down in a landfill without the presence of oxygen and an increase of toxic and potentially dangerous substances. In a landfill environment, there is no oxygen to convert innocuous elements into usable compost. Therefore, materials in these environments can have the ability to biodegrade, but not to compost. And that is also why a product can be both biodegradable and compostable. The specification partially is determined by how a product is discarded.
In a landfill setting, ASTM D5526 tests for plastic materials that are suitable for anaerobic biodegradation under accelerated landfill conditions. This process not only reduces the volume of waste in landfills, but can also increase the feasibility of economic landfill-gas recovery. There currently is no equivalent to this test standard in other parts of the world. Therefore, products that indicate having passed testing for ASTM D5526 can be classified as certified landfill biodegradable.The goal of using certified landfill biodegradable items is to not add the to already occurring environmental issues within a landfill. Using a single use petroleum plastic item only increases the already existing problem but a product certified under ASTM D5526 will biodegrade without leaving behind anything harmful.
* An additional note on language: We refer to a product as ‘compostable’ or ‘biodegradable’ based on the type of certification it has. For example, if a product is being tested just for home compostability we will refer to it as compostable only. But that does not mean it isn’t also biodegradable. For the sake of clarity we only use the terms pertaining to its test method.
Transparency is our priority.
We will always disclose what our products are made of, how they will decompose and what conditions they require to do so.
Our promise is to always use materials that have the least environmental impact. We want to support the green industry of today to advance the green technology of tomorrow. All our products and materials are certified as biodegradable or compostable by an official party.
The following is a list of the compostable, biodegradable and environmental certifications each of our products hold under North American and European Union standards. The institutions our manufacturers have been certified through are official and recognized internationally. For more information on them scroll to the bottom of the page.
PLA Barrier Film Certifications
•ASTM D6400 / ASTM D6868: The standard specification for solid material biodegradation (by composting) required for the labeling of plastics designed to be aerobically composted in municipal or industrial facilities. In order to compost satisfactorily, the product must demonstrate each of the three characteristics as follows: (1) proper disintegration during composting; (2) adequate level of inherent biodegradation; and (3) no adverse impacts on the ability of composts to support plant growth.
• ISO 17088:2008: Specifies procedures and requirements for the identification and labelling of plastics, and products made from plastics, that are suitable for recovery through aerobic composting. The four following aspects are addressed:
- disintegration during composting
- negative effects on the composting process and facility
- negative effects on the quality of the resulting compost, including the presence of high levels of regulated metals and other harmful components.
• EN 13432: The industrial standard to be met in order to claim that a plastic product is compostable in the European marketplace. In summary, it requires multiple tests and sets pass/fail criteria, including disintegration (physical and visual break down) of the finished item within 12 weeks, biodegradation (conversion of organic carbon into CO2) of polymeric ingredients within 180 days, plant toxicity and heavy metals. The ASTM6400 standard is the regulatory framework for the United States and as similar requirements.
Disposable Nitrile Glove Certifications
•ASTM D5526-12: The standard test method for determining Anaerobic biodegradation of plastic materials under accelerated landfill conditions. As degradation occurs inevitably in a landfill, it is of immediate concern that the plastic materials do not produce toxic metabolites or end products under the various conditions that have the potential to occur in a landfill. The mixtures remaining after completion of the test method, containing fully or partially degraded plastic materials or extracts, can be submitted subsequently to ecotoxicity testing in order to assess the environmental hazards posed by the breakdown of plastics to varying degrees in landfills. This test method has been designed to assess biodegradation under optimum and less-than-optimum conditions.
The test materials are mixed with pretreated household waste and exposed to a methanogenic inoculum derived from anaerobic digesters operating only on pretreated household waste. The anaerobic decomposition occurs under dry (more than 30 % total solids) and static nonmixed conditions. The mixtures obtained after this test method can be used to assess the environmental and health risks of plastic materials that are degraded in a landfill.
Bagasse Ink Caps
• EN 13432 The industrial standard which must be met in order to claim that a plastic product is compostable in the European marketplace. In summary, it requires multiple tests and sets pass/fail criteria, including disintegration (physical and visual break down) of the finished item within 12 weeks, biodegradation (conversion of organic carbon into CO2) of polymeric ingredients within 180 days, plant toxicity and heavy metals. The ASTM 6400 standard is the regulatory framework for the United States and as similar requirements. Additive-based bioplastics sold as photodegradable or Oxo-biodegradable do not comply with these standards in their current form.
Wheat Straw Razors
•ISO 14855-1:2005 Specifies a method for the determination of the ultimate aerobic biodegradability of plastics, based on organic compounds, under controlled composting conditions by measurement of the amount of carbon dioxide evolved and the degree of disintegration of the plastic at the end of the test. This test has been renewed and is currently issued as ISO 14855-1:2012
Hospital Grade Disinfectant
• Health Canada Number: DIN 02242474
A DIN uniquely identifies the following product characteristics: manufacturer; product name; active ingredient(s); strength(s) of active ingredient(s); pharmaceutical form; route of administration.
A DIN lets the user know that the product has undergone and passed a review of its formulation, labeling and instructions for use. A drug product sold in Canada without a DIN is not in compliance with Canadian law.The DIN is unique and serves as a tool to help in the follow-up of products on the market, recall of products, inspections, and quality monitoring.
• Eco Logo: UL 2794
This is the standard for sustainability for disinfectants and hard surface cleaners that have a reduced environmental impact. Environment Canada started this programme in 1988, to provide information about environmentally-responsible products. The U.S. based for-profit Underwriters Laboratory (now UL) bought it in 2010.
Third Party Testing Partners
Biodegradable Products Institute
BPI is North America’s leading certifier of compostable products and packaging. Our certification program ensures that products and packaging displaying the BPI logo have been independently tested and verified according to scientifically based standards. We promote best practices for the diversion and recovery of compostable materials through municipal and commercial composting.
TÜV Rheinland is a global leader in independent inspection services, founded 145 years ago. The group maintains a worldwide presence of more than 20,000 people; annual turnover is nearly EUR 2 billion. The independent experts stand for quality and safety for people, technology and the environment in nearly all aspects of life. TÜV Rheinland inspects technical equipment, products and services, oversees projects, and helps to shape processes and information security for companies. Its experts train people in a wide range of careers and industries. To this end, TÜV Rheinland employs a global network of approved labs, testing and education centers. Since 2006, TÜV Rheinland has been a member of the United Nations Global Compact to promote sustainability and combat corruption.
ASTM International, formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials, is an international standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services. Our glove manufacturers have the certifications D5526 D5511 E1963 from ASTM. Our barrier film and ink cap suppliers have the certification ASTM D6400 and/or D6868.
SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. We are recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 89,000 employees, we operate a network of more than 2,600 offices and laboratories around the world.
Our core services can be divided into four categories:
- Inspection: our comprehensive range of world-leading inspection and verification services, such as checking the condition and weight of traded goods at transshipment, help you to control quantity and quality, and meet all relevant regulatory requirements across different regions and markets
- Testing: our global network of testing facilities, staffed by knowledgeable and experienced personnel, enable you to reduce risks, shorten time to market and test the quality, safety and performance of your products against relevant health, safety and regulatory standards
- Certification: we enable you to demonstrate that your products, processes, systems or services are compliant with either national or international standards and regulations or customer defined standards, through certification
- Verification: we ensure that products and services comply with global standards and local regulations. Combining global coverage with local knowledge, unrivalled experience and expertise in virtually every industry, SGS covers the entire supply chain from raw materials to final consumption.