Biodegradable and compostable materials are characterised by the capability of being converted by the microorganisms that are available in the environment into natural substances such as water, carbon dioxide and compost. This process depends on the surrounding environmental conditions, the material, and the application (from EUBP). Biodegradability is a chemical property linked to the chemical structure of a molecule. Specific standards define the biodegradability and compostability of materials and, therefore, the adequate option for the end of life. For example, Standard EN 13432 defines the requirement for a plastic material to be defined compostable in an industrial composting plant.
The advantages of biodegradable and compostable materials are associated with their end of life and the possibility of increasing waste management efficiency and recuperating organic waste into compost. Furthermore, compostable materials can help in optimising the collection, especially in cases where the packaging materials are "contaminated" with food and/or made of different plastic materials. In both cases, it will be difficult to recycle the plastic packaging properly. Furthermore, in some instances, compostable packaging can reduce the environmental costs of reprocessing packaging waste; this is mainly the case when the packaging is closely associated with food (coffee capsules) or soiled by food. Compostable materials are mainly used as bags for separate collection of biowaste, optimising the collection of the organic waste and converting it into compost.
Check the environmental impacts (vs the material substituted).
The material will have too many undesirable impacts if there are many industrial steps from the resource to the production of functional material.
Check the functional properties (vs the material substituted)
If the properties are not the same, is there any negative consequence on environmental impacts?
Check if the biodegradation rate and its optimal conditions are adapted to the targeted biodegradation of the packaging.
The word "compostable" refers to biodegradation in an optimised environment; generally, a temperature higher than room temperature is only reached in industrial composting units. There are several standards for the different levels of degradability. This should be checked for the entire packaging, not just the material.
Check the good wording of the claims you intend to use relating to the biodegradability of the packaging (regulation, standards).
Overview of several materials and their degradability. Note: this overview does not refer to the entire packaging but the material