Harmonised standards for bioplastics

Standardisation is an effort of industrial stakeholders to define criteria for the description of products and services. The idea is to ease the competition and the commercial growth by overcoming barriers that result from unclear or incompatible specifications. The use of standards is voluntary, which means that it is within the sovereignty of a company to seek the compliance with a standard or not. In the latter case, however, it is not allowed to make the reference to the standard.

Certain European standards are called harmonised standards. This means that the European Commission mandated the European Standardisation Organisation CEN to elaborate the content of the standard.

Standards specify for example how measurements of biodegradability or renewability of a given material need to be made, or which criteria need to be fulfilled. A product or service that fulfils these requirements can legitimately claim compliance to the specific standard.
European Bioplastics strongly recommends having the comformity to a standard verified by an independent body that issues according certificates and corresponding labels.

More information on certification and labels can be found here. A comprehensive overview of all relevant standards and labels for bioplastics can be found in our fact sheet.

The standard “CEN/TS 16137:2011 Plastics – Determination of biobased carbon content” from the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), specifies the calculation method for determining the biobased carbon content in monomers, polymers and plastic materials and products, based on the 14C content measurement. As the CEN/TS 16137 provides a standardised set of methods, it is currently the most important guideline for substantiating marketing claims regarding a material’s or product’s biobased carbon content.

Biobased carbon content is the variable describing the amount of biobased carbon (in relation to fossil-based carbon) contained in a material or product. It is measured via the 14C method that adheres to CEN/TS 16137 or ASTM 6866 standard. The 14C method assesses the overall carbon contained in a material or product and expresses the biobased carbon content as fraction weight (mass) or percent weight (mass).

Furthermore the CEN/TC (technical committee) 411 „Biobased products“ is developing standards on the determination of the biobased carbon content and biobased mass content in a product, is looking into sustainability assessment criteria for biobased products and many more connected topics.

If bioplastics have proven their compostability according to international standards, they can be treated in industrial composting plants. Plastic products can provide proof of their compostability by successfully meeting the harmonised European standard, EN 13432 or EN 14995. These two standards define the technical specification for the compostability of bioplastics products:

EN 13432:2000 Packaging:

  • Requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation
  • Test scheme and evaluation criteria for the final acceptance of packaging