Compostable & Biodegradable Guide

We are all becoming more concerned about how sustainable our economy is than ever before. Certain buzz words become the norm but, sometimes the definitions of these words can be overlooked.

The purpose for this guide is to identify what both compostability and biodegradability mean and why they are different.

We have also outlined 5 certified standards, 2 regarding compostability and 3 regarding biodegradability of which the main differences are the test environments.

  • Biodegradable

    This is where an item naturally breaks down into its organic components but does not specify the environmental factors nor the specific time frame; this means it can take weeks to millennia. There are a number of variable factors involved and these can include,

    • The amount of naturally occurring microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, algae)
    • Light (heat)
    • Water (humidity)
    • Oxygen
    • Time

    Food scraps will eventually biodegrade into carbon dioxide, water and biomass via naturally occurring microorganisms.

    Plastic however, cannot fully biodegrade but rather degrades . It disintegrates into smaller fragments of the original item (eventually into microplastics and nano plastics).

    This means that if something is biodegradable it is not necessarily compostable.

  • Compostable

    This is where an item breaks down into its organic components within a specific time frame and in addition enhances the soil quality. This means no visible contaminates or toxic substances are left.

    Food scraps break down into nutrients that can benefit the soils
    quality.
    When plastic breaks down it can leave smaller fragments, such as microplastics and nano plastics and these are left over contaminants

    There are two types of composting:

    • Home – A slow process mainly due to the environment being a lower temperature.
    • Industrial – A controlled and quick process, especially when compared to home composting. This is mainly due to the environment being set to specific conditions.

    If something is compostable it can biodegrade.

Certification Standards

In this section we have outlined some yarn and fibre certifications used to create our finished products. Please note, we currently have not tested any of our finished products to the following certifications.

All the following certifications adhere to the British Standard European Norm (BS EN) 13432 as this defines the minimum requirements for packaging composting and biodegradation standards.

These certifications are based on several standards methodology and only details the technical requirements a product must meet to obtain certification. They have all been performed in a laboratory under strict conditions and this means they do have restrictions when placed in real life scenarios.

To understand the below headings used within the standards biodegradable is the chemical process and disintegration is the physical process.

TUV OK Biodegradable; Soil

TUV OK Biodegradable; Water

TUV OK Biodegradable; Marine

Compostable

TUV OK Compost; Home

TUV OK Compost; Industrial

The disintegrations tests, for all the above certifications, are determined by the physical remaining fragments of the test item. Where the test item contains any plastic it does not fully account for microplastics, since these are less than 5 micrometres. Nano plastics will also be overlooked as these measure between 1 nanometre and 1000 nanometres.

The biodegradability tests, for all the above certifications, is determined by the amount of carbon dioxide released of the test item.

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