The EU Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste, as modified by the EU Directive on lightweight carrier bags in 2015, tasked the European Commission to adopt specifications for labels of home compostable plastic carrier bags. Accordingly, in June 2016, the Commission asked the relevant European Standardisation Committee, CEN, to develop a standard on home compostable packaging.

The draft mandate for a home composting standard has been declined by CEN in its current form. CEN has revised the standardisation request, proposing a number of changes, most importantly limiting such standard solely to lightweight plastic carrier bags. Compostable lightweight bags can be used to collect garden waste and transport the waste to the compost pile and that way can be discarded and composted together. According to CEN, all other types of packaging should be treated in professional waste treatment plants, such as industrial composting facilities, in order to ensure optimal recovery and high-quality organic recycled products such as biogas and compost.

CEN further emphasises that home composting cannot be considered a waste treatment option according to the provisions of the EU Waste Framework Directive. In contrast to industrial composting, which is a harmonised and controlled waste treatment option operated under specific and controlled conditions in specific plants with explicit permits and resulting compost as a regulated product, home composting is a gardening practise carried out by citizens on a voluntary basis, without permits and without obligations. The conditions in each garden compost pile and the actual treatment methods vary greatly, making it difficult to standardise this process and to effectively encourage and monitor compliance.

Therefore, CEN proposes to develop a Technical Report as a form of standardisation activity on the voluntary gardening practice of home composting. CEN and the Commission will now discuss the proposed revisions further. It is assessed that the development of a technical report and, subsequently, the according standard, will take three years.

EUBP supports CEN’s view and recommends the separate collection of organic household waste with a dedicated kerbside waste collection system and subsequent treatment in industrial composting and AD plants. Home composting should only be considered as an additional option for the treatment of organic waste, especially for garden waste. For more information, please see our position paper on home composting.

Christopher Paquette (Creative Commons)

image: Christopher Paquette (Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)