Do compostable products disintegrate fast enough to be disposed of at today’s industrial organic waste treatment facilities? According to a recent study from Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Netherlands, indeed they do.
The criteria for the industrial compostability of packaging are set out in the European standard EN 13432, which requires this to disintegrate after 12 weeks and completely biodegrade after six months. For the purpose of this project, commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy a set of nine different EN13432 certified compostable plastic products - organic waste collection bags, plant pots, tea bags, coffee pads, coffee capsules, and fruit labels - were tested at an industrial organic waste treatment facility. The research questions for the study were defined by the Dutch Waste Management Association VA and Holland Bioplastics, the association representing the Dutch bioplastics industry. VA selected and provided the test facility while Holland Bioplastics contributed the test products.
“We studied how compostable plastics behave in the current Dutch system for the treatment of source separated municipal biowaste (GFT) and came to the conclusion that compostable products can be processed well with GFT,” said Maarten van der Zee, co-author of the study.
The test showed that the products broke down within a maximum of 22 days. A PLA plant pot was found to have completely disintegrated after the first waste treatment cycle of 11 days; the PLA teabag was gone within 22 days – proof, said Chairman of European Bioplastics (EUBP), François de Bie, that certified compostable plastics actually deliver.
“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, ” he commented.
“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.”
He continued: “In view of the upcoming development of the framework for biodegradable plastics included in the European Green Deal, I kindly ask the European Commission to take these research results into account and to also support more similar research projects.”
Read the full study: https://edepot.wur.nl/514397