As our society continues our mission to help save our planet from plastic pollution, many organizations are making the switch to compostable packaging. At UrthPact, we truly believe that home compostable materials are the true solution to the single-use plastics problem. While bans are great for the short term, we can’t realistically continue living as we do without single-use products. We require them constantly in our everyday lives, whether it be rubber gloves, drinking straws, or to-go containers. Compostables provide a much more circular option that is healthier for the planet all throughout their lifecycle. The problem? How do you know which products are certified for what? There are multiple types of compost, different certifying bodies in different countries…how are you supposed to keep it all straight?
Let’s start simple. There are two types of compostables: commercial (also called industrial) and home. Commercially compostable products require transport to a municipal composter where they can break down at high temperatures in specific microbial communities. Home compostables are certified to break down in your own backyard compost pile. They will break down at ambient temperatures in a natural microbial community. Each type of compost has its own test standards and certifications. Let’s take a look at commercial compost first.
There are two main commercial compost test standards: ASTM D6400 and EN 13432. These two standards are complete equals. They require the same timelines, materials, and test setup. The only difference is D6400 is the norm in America, while 13432 is the norm in Europe. In terms of certifying bodies, BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute) certifications are the most recognized in the US. BPI certifies based on results from D6400 tests. In Europe, it’s TUV Austria’s OK compost INDUSTRIAL certification, which is based on, you guessed it, EN 13432. Therefore, BPI and OK Industrial are equivalent certifications. If you are looking for BPI and find OK Industrial, you can rest assured that you are getting the same value you would expect from BPI.
Home compost is slightly different. There is only one certifying body worldwide dealing with home compost, which is based mainly on an Australian test standard, AS 5810. The product is then certified for home compost by TUV’s OK compost HOME protocol and certification. So, if you find a product marked with OK compost HOME, you know that your product is certified home compostable. And keep in mind, home compost is a step FORWARD from industrial compost, so if a product is marked with OK compost HOME, you can know that the product meets requirements for ASTM D6400, BPI, and OK compost INDUSTRIAL. It goes without saying that all home compostables will also break down safely in industrial settings.
There are a number of great certifying bodies out there that are working to help make our planet a better place. As we continue to expand the compostables industry, more test standards will be written, and more certifications will appear. It’s important to understand the certifications backing your products so that you can provide accurate background information to your customers. Our goal is to provide as many resources as possible to our customers to help them convey the environmental benefits provided by our products. Our goal at UrthPact is to keep 25 billion plastic pieces from reaching oceans and landfills. And we want to do it the right way: with certified products, education, and integrity.