The British Standards Institute Introduces Standard For Biodegradable Plastic

The UK government sets standards for biodegradable plastic

“The government, consumers and businesses are taking collective action to tackle global plastic pollution, helping to reduce harm to wildlife, clean up our oceans and reach our trailblazing net-zero goals. To support this ambition, the government published a call for evidence on biodegradable plastics, which will soon publish its findings. We always welcome innovation aimed at increasing the sustainability of plastics, and will monitor the introduction of this new standard with interest,” said Nadhim Zahawi, Minister for Business and Industry, in a statement.

For a long time there has been confusion over how the terms  “biodegradable,” “bioplastic,” and “compostable” can be used and what exactly they mean.

Well now, the UK government, has set out to establish stricter boundaries for what those terms really mean. They asked experts to help develop standards for biodegradability and compostability of plastics. The call was set out in a paper, Call For Evidence: Standards For Bio-Based, Biodegradable, and Compostable Plastics.

In its role as the UK national standards body, the British Standards Institute (BSI) introduced the standard that requires a product break down into organic matter and carbon dioxide in the open air within two years to be considered biodegradable plastic.

A business will need to prove its products break down without leaving any microplastics.

The standardized protocols for testing at each stage will include: 

  1. Weathering exposure of test polyolefinic materials for a defined period of time, including chemical analysis to yield quantifiable measurement of chemical transformation into a wax
  2. Eco-toxicity testing upon the wax to ensure no hazardous substances are present
  3. Biodegradation testing under mesophilic (real-world) soil conditions

Plastic manufacturers will have the ability to get data on the performance of the biodegradability process of polyolefinic material and deliver testing laboratories with a standardized protocol, for the first time.

The standard was developed by a steering group of experts in the field of plastics, and is sponsored by Polymateria.

“We have designed this around the consumer,” Niall Dunne, Chief Executive of Polymateria, told The Guardian.

“We wanted to cut through this eco-classification jungle and take a more optimistic view around inspiring and motivating the consumer to do the right thing.” He continued, “We now have a base to substantiate any claims that are being made and to create a new area of credibility around the whole biodegradable space.”

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