Industrially compostable products and materials are designed to completely biodegrade in a commercial compost environment, at elevated temperatures and alongside microbial activity, within six months. The generally accepted difference between home and commercial composting is the temperature at which they operate. A home compost is estimated to have an average 30C where commercial systems generally run 60C and above. There are currently three main certification standards for Industrial (or commercial) compostability: 1. American Standard - ASTM 6400 2. European Standard - EN 13432 3. Australian Standard AS 4736 All of the testing procedures for commercial compostability follow the same criteria and as such there is one common logo which is often used as something of an international recognition of a product or material being certified for commercial or industrial composting - the Seedling. All commercial compostability certifications require that the product/material pass two central tests: - Biodegradation: Requires a material to disintegrate after 90 days and completely biodegrade after 180 days. That means that 90 percent or more of the bioplastic material will have been converted to CO2. The remaining share is converted into water and biomass (compost). - Chemical Characterization - this tests that the product leaves no harmful or chemical residues as part of the process. In addition to the above, the Australasian Standard has one further test: - Eco-toxicity - this test is to ensure that the compost created supports a healthy soil and the primary test here is in relation to the worm population of the soil. A key factor to consider when looking at commercially compostable materials is the availability of commercial compost facilities. There are much fewer composting facilities globally than there are landfills or recycling plants.
Frequently asked questions
Compostable materials are designed to be composted and unfortunately that means they cannot be mechanically recycled. Although commercial composting systems are not currently widely available on a kerbside basis this is changing rapidly and so too is the rate of home composting. For further reading please see our blog post on Composting vs Recycling.