There’s a lot of confusion over what is “compostable” versus “biodegradable.” Here’s the breakdown.
- Break down into water, CO2, inorganic compounds, and biomass at a similar rate to paper
- Disintegrate into small pieces within 90 days so the original product is not visually distinguishable in compost
- Must leave minimal or no toxic residue
- Disintegrate by biological means
- May leave toxic residue and
- Can be made of anything that can be decomposed by microorganisms with enough time
There are several international organizations that have established standards and testing methods for compostability:
- American Society for Testing and Materials ASTM-6400-99 and ASTM-6868
- European Standardization Committee (CEN) EN13432
These standards specify the criteria for biodegradation, disintegration and eco-toxicity for a plastic to be called compostable.
- Biodegradability is determined by measuring the amount of CO2 produced over a certain time period by the biodegrading plastic. The standards require 60% conversion of carbon into carbon dioxide within 180 days for resins made from single polymer and 90% conversion of carbon into carbon dioxide for co-polymers or polymer mixes.
- Disintegration is measured by sieving the material to determine the biodegraded size and less than 10% should remain on a 2mm screen within 120 days.
- Eco toxicity is measured by having concentrations of heavy metals below the limits set by the standards and by testing plant growth by mixing the compost with soil in different concentrations and comparing it with controlled compost.
Our compostable PLA Straws are also DINCERTCO certified and entitled with the use of Seedling Logo
Unfortunately, some manufacturers and many start-up eco-companies have confused & mis-lead consumers by loosely misusing “compostable” and “biodegradable.” This “greenwashing” of products to seem like they harmlessly decompose is hiding the fact that they are biodegrading toxic materials so you can’t see but they are still in the environment or using the terminology out from the correct standard required
Not all attempts to be more environmentally friendly are in earnest, though. In an attempt to artificially boost sales, some groups have been guilty of “greenwashing,” or falsely marketing their products as a viable environmentally friendly alternative, when it is actually just as harmful to the environment–or worse. These marketing tactics draw in well-meaning consumers who believe they are helping the environment (often by paying more for a product), when they are instead encouraging these misleading strategies.
It’s important as conscious consumers to make sure that every choice we make takes into account our impact on the world. Choosing truly compostable, plant-based products over petroleum-based products -biodegradable or not – results in less energy consumption, water use, and emission of pollution and toxins.