What does compostable mean?
In summary, compostable means that the material can be degraded to good compost in less than 12 weeks in an industrial composting installation. Composting is the aerobic (with oxygen) disintegration of organic materials by microorganisms under controlled conditions. Microorganisms are, for example, bacteria, fungi and worms. Composting reduces the volume and weight of the raw materials. It transforms the raw materials into a valuable soil improver: compost.
A packaging is compostable if it complies with the European standard EN-13432.
These are the 4 criteria that must be met:
- At least 90% of the product breaks down within 12 weeks to particles of less than 2mm
- Within 6 months the product breaks down into organic substances (CO2 and minerals)
- The maximum allowed concentrations for heavy metals and fluorine are not exceeded
- The added product has no harmful influence on the quality of the compost
All our products are compostable in accordance with standard EN-13432. If you want to request the certificates for specific products, please contact us. We have the certification per product.
Independent, accredited certification bodies, such as TÜV Austria and DIN Certco, carry out the certification procedure of EN-13432, in which basic materials, different additives and other product properties are evaluated in a lab.
Both logos indicate that the disposables can be composted according to EN-13432. The logos are not specifically mentioned on all certified disposables. Sometimes, for example, it is not possible to print on the material.
Biodegradable or compostable?
The terms biodegradable and compostable often cause confusion.
A biodegradable product can be broken down by microorganisms, heat and air, but does not necessarily produce a qualitative compost. Therefore, there are no guarantees about whether the compost is of good quality and also the speed has not been determined. This is always the case with compostable packaging.
So forget the term "biodegradable", as it tells us nothing about timescales (wood is biodegradable, but a log cabin can stand for generations).
Compostable means that something can break down within 12 weeks in an environmentally friendly way into useful and nourishing compost in an industrial composting installation. The compost is healthy and can be used. That is why we are proud that all Bio Pack products are 100% compostable.
The advantages of compost and composting:
1. Reduces waste quantity (natural recycling form)
2. Is a fertilizer
3. Improves the soil structure: a better air and water management improves plant growth
4. Sand soils do not dry out so quickly, and heavy soils drain the excess water better
5. Reduces soil erosion
6. Makes the soil easier to process
7. Optimises the acidity value
8. Buffer for temperature variations between day and night
9. Improves the plants against parasites and diseases
10. Improves the taste of vegetables...
Compostable vs home compostable?
There are 2 possible composting processes:
1. Industrial composting (in a composting installation)
2. Composting at home (at your home in the compost heap or compost bin)
The main difference between composting in an industrial installation and in a home environment is that the temperatures in industrial compost facilities are much higher and are kept stable.
The temperature of a home compost is usually lower and less constant, and is also influenced by several other factors such as weather conditions. Our Mater-Bi bags (more details here), for example, are compostable at home.
The materials at a glance:
Industrial compostable materials: Sugar cane (with biolamination) - PLA - CPLA
Home compostable materials: Sugar cane - Palm leaf - Wood, cardboard & cellulose (with PLA coating) - Natureflex - Mater-Bi
What are composting conditions?
Appropriate conditions are necessary for composting compostable packaging. Industrial composting creates the perfect balance between microbes, moisture and heat. In this way, compostable packaging can be included in the composting of food waste.
The conditions at home vary depending on the skills of the resident, so we can not make any statements about this, but successful trials have been carried out using compost bins.
The requirements for good composting:
Micro-organisms (for example worms)
Composition compost environment (a good mix)
Size of materials (the smaller the better)
Good aeration of the compost environment
Have a healthy compost heap? Follow the MANGO principle:
- Mixing: Mix brown and green material. Occassionally add lava or basalt flour.
- Covering: Provide a roof on the compost heap. This keeps the heat inside and promotes the process. Jute bags, a plastic sheet or an old carpet are sufficient to cover up the heap.
- Wetting: To test whether the compost heap has enough moisture, squeeze out a handful of compost material. A few drops are coming out? That is good, otherwise add water.
- Large compost heap: Small buckets of waste will compost more slowly than 1 m³ compost heap.
- Turn around: After a while you can flip over everything. Make sure that what was on the outside is now on the inside.
A good mix is indispensable!
In order to perform a good home composting, you need a 50/50 mix of green and brown materials.
The green material adds nitrogen and nutrients to the mix and keeps it moist, the brown material adds carbon to the mix and keeps the structure of the compost firmly!
Green compost materials
Fruit remains & peels
Vegetables residues & foliage
Teabags & coffee grounds
Lawn clippings & weeds
Brown compost materials
Paper & cardboard
Hay & straw
Some more tips!
- Make smaller: if you can put the materials through the shredder, composting will be faster
- Occasionally stir up the cardboard components to allow air to flow through the compost
- Keep cooked food and meat out of the compost pile to avoid unwanted visitors
Why making disposable packaging compostable?
Compostable disposable packaging is designed for recycling in an industrial composting installation, where these facilities exist.
This means that you no longer have to do any sorting. The compostable cup, the lid, the burger box, the knife as well as the napkin can be perfectly thrown away together. And this without having to remove food waste. Another benefit is that when the disposable packaging and the food waste are together in one garbage bin, it also remains cleaner and can therefore be replaced more easily.
Composting is not always the best solution. For example, Biopack will not offer compostable water bottles, because PET already has an advanced recycling process.
But composting is a logical solution for disposable packaging with food waste.
Why are our compostable packaging sustainable?
In a nutshell... Green packaging with clear added value:
Reap the fruits of nature
Our compostable disposables are made from plant-based renewable resources such as palm leaf, maize and sugarcane, unlike most packaging and disposables that are made from fossil fuels such as petroleum and natural gas. Renewable raw materials come from nature. Importantly, these are also rapidly renewable and inexhaustible natural raw materials.
From useless to useful!
Many of our the raw materials used come from natural by-products of agriculture, such as leaves and stems, which would otherwise just be thrown away. PaperWise, for example, is paper made without felling a single tree! The bagasse remaining after sugar extraction is used to make sugar cane disposables. Thanks to this process, we recycle valuable by-products that were previously discarded or burned. Thus, we scale back the use of fossil resources in a sustainable way.
Reduction of CO2 emissions
Sustainable packaging is CO2 neutral. Crops absorb CO2 from the atmosphere during their growth phase. Composting our disposables releases the same amount of CO2 as the crop absorbed during its lifetime. CO2 emissions during the production of sustainable packaging are also many times lower than for regular packaging. So using our biodegradable disposables makes a significant contribution to reducing harmful CO2 emissions.
End on a positive note: returns to nature
Waste management is still a growing problem. Plastic waste often ends up in nature, causing considerable damage. Using compostable disposables is at least one way to contribute to the solution. This is because our products are compostable and certified for this purpose according to European standard EN-13432. After use, the products can be composted (where facilities exist) and serve as food for new crops (cradle to cradle principle). In this way, the packaging is returned to nature. The packaging is CO neutral, regardless of whether it is fermented, composted or incinerated after use.
What is the use when I can not (yet) compost the packaging?
The resources of the earth are finite. Disposables are used very briefly, so it definitely makes sense to switch to renewable materials growing back within one year. Conventional plastics can be better reserved for applications where they can not be easily replaced.
Many people like to use plant materials, knowing that they are a simple way to reduce carbon emission and help their business become green.
All our raw materials used are CO2 neutral, regardless of whether the products are ultimately fermented, composted or incinerated. And even if they are burned in the worst case, no harmful toxic gases are released during combustion.
But here is the exciting part. When the Wright brothers invented the aeroplane, there were no airports. Look at air infrastructure now. By choosing compostable products, food service businesses can actively drive change in Belgian recycling.
The more compostable products in circulation, the faster we can make the switch-over.
Can these disposables be removed with the GFT?
Theoretically, our packaging is made to be removed with organic waste. Unfortunately, in Belgium and the Netherlands the collection and processing facilities are not yet ready to process this kind of compostable packaging.
For the time being, our compostable packaging can thus not be included in the organic waste. So, unfortunately, there is not yet a perfect solution for Belgium or the Netherlands.
Click here to find out which packaging is allowed on which waste stream in Belgium. Unfortunately, compostable packaging is still completely overlooked in this overview.
Solution for the food waste recycling problem?
Combining plastic and cardboard in foodservice packaging creates massive recycling challenges.
Food contamination is inevitable. After all, food remains in the used cups, plates and other packaging after they have been used. These leftovers make the recycling of conventional disposables and packaging very difficult. So often the result is incineration or landfill.
For disposables destined for serving food, it makes sense to use materials that can be recycled together with food. With compostable disposables, food is not a contamination, it’s a vital ingredient in the composting processs. So compostable disposables offer a nice solution.
What are we learning from here? In reality cardboard + plastic + food can hardly be recycled.
What about litter and marine pollution?
Recently, there has been a lot of media attention for our polluted sea and the litter problem. We share the concern of the public opinion about marine pollution. The seriousness of the situation, pitfalls and dangers are now very clearly exposed and everyone is looking for solutions. We are very pleased that sustainability is finally playing a pioneering role in the public debate.
Our compostable packaging is made to replace conventional petroleum-based packaging in a food service environment.
A compostable packaging is not a perfect solution for litter and marine pollution. Successful composting requires heat, oxygen, microbes and moisture. These perfect conditions are created in industrial composting installations.
However, the sea environment is very different and does not offer the right conditions to destroy compostable packaging. We are against waste in any environment, on land or in the sea. But compostable packaging does not solve the problem of marine pollution immediately.
Compostable packaging may not be just dumped on the street or in nature! However it is "less bad" than a plastic package, it is certainly not the intention.
- All waste must be disposed of and collected correctly: do not make litter!
- Compostable packaging will not simply break down in the sea or on the street.
- Biopack offers a very wide range of compostable solutions, ideal for (food service) environments with well-defined waste streams.
Compostables face exactly the same issue as all disposables on-the-go. So the question is: how to capture it once it’s walked out the door?
The right ‘binfrastructure’ is needed, but those bins need to be used correctly. That means clear messaging and consumer education is vital to make sure what is collected is good enough to be recycled.
Exactly the same challenges (binfrastructure + behaviour) apply to all recycling - whether that's plastic cups, plastic bottles, or compostable packaging. Compostables are not the enemy. We're fighting the same challenges with the same goal: better recycling.
What are our compostable products made of?
Biopack sells disposable packaging made from plants, not plastic. After use, they are designed for industrial composting with food waste. Biopack thus replaces conventional plastic by different plant materials. For example, PLA is a compostable material made from plants. PLA replaces the plastic in a coffee cup, and it is the clear material in our cups for cold drinks and many of our take-away salad bowls.
Our coffee lids and cutlery are made from a heat-resistant variant of PLA. Recycled sugar cane is another practical material that we use for our plates and bowls. It is known as bagasse (pulp of sugar cane), and works very well, it keeps the heat inside but does not trap condensation. Moreover, it is renewable, because it is a recycled by-product of the sugar industry.
More information about our materials can be found on our material info page.
How quickly do the disposables break down after purchase?
This is a question that comes back very regularly and that we can easily reassure you. Various factors are needed to have the packaging composted: humidity, temperature, micro-organisms, composition, size of materials, aeration,... Certain products such as bags from Mater-Bi start to compost faster (in a warm, humid room for example) than, for example, a CPLA fork.
But the packaging can be stored for a long time, taken into account the correct storage conditions, preferably:
• In the original packaging
• In a dry place
• At room temperature (15 - 25°C)
• Away from sunlight and dust
• Far from acids and salts
• Do not place directly on the floor or against the walls