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Certification Series: Good-bye, Logo Confusion! BSI is here to help.

In this Certification series, Mallory McLeod, one of our BSI staff, shares her certification smarts with you. We hope to de-mystify all the logos and stickers you’ve seen or not seen — on your compostable packaging products!

At BSI, we’ve been working towards building a full list of compostable certification institutions and composting facilities as part of an ongoing research and development project.

We know you share our sustainable values and love our compostable products. So, we plan to keep you in the loop, right here on the BSIbio Blog. Before you know it, we’ll be your go-to source for all the sustainability news when it comes to compostable products and the compostable industry!

There is a lot of helpful information out there, but it can be hard to find, and sometimes more so, to decode the attached technical language. On the other hand, there is plenty of misguided information going around, too. Now more than ever, we as consumers, environmentalists, and businesses need to keep ourselves informed and aware.

Certifying bodies are the foundation of great, safe products

Over the next few weeks, we will outline the who, what, where, and why of compostable product certifications in North America and Europe right here on the BSIbio Blog.

We’ll start here by focusing on the four certification bodies that are today’s leaders, with proven track records. These institutions provide the most comprehensive testing and certification standards available in the compostable industry to date.

Be sure to bookmark our page so you can be the first to read our next post in this series!

They are:

  1. Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) in conjunction with the US Compost Council
  2. Vincotte
  3. Bureau de Normalisation du Quebec (BNQ)
  4. European Bioplastics in conjuction with Din Certo

Why should compostable testing and certification be important to BSI and our customers?

Our story begins in the 1980s…When “biodegradable plastics” first hit the market, manufacturers could make product performance claims without any corroborating (science-backed, third-party) tests. Why? The methods and standards just did not exist yet (BPI).

This caused consumer confusion and skepticism because these so-called “biodegradable plastics” did not biodegrade and perform as expected.

Now there is more advanced technology that can create bioplastics that look and feel like existing products, yet have been engineered to completely and safely biodegrade and/or compost in composting facilities without leaving any residues.

By 2003, ASTM Standards arrive on the scene…

Through these scientifically proven biodegradability specifications, manufacturers can now make truthful and accurate claims about biodegradability and compostability.

Biodegradable and/or Compostable?

In the compostable packaging space, you will come across both of these terms…All. The. Time. You’ll also find that they are often — and incorrectly — used interchangeably. This chunk of text from the Canadian Compost Council is a great resource for just that.

It is important to be aware that “compostable” and “biodegradable” are not equivalent terms. The key distinguishing features between the terms are time and end result. Biodegradation does not reference the amount of time needed for decomposition of materials or the type of physical and chemical quality attributes of the end products…

This means that materials can simply be broken down into smaller pieces of the original source. In contrast, the term “compostable” means that the materials are capable of:

1. Undergoing biological decomposition,

2. Within a specific time period,

3. That results in the materials being visually indistinguishable from finished compost, and

4. Being broken down into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds and biomass.

Currently the term “compostable” is not regulated by any jurisdiction in Canada; therefore certification is not required to use it. However, certification does provide a benefit. The purpose of voluntary certification is to garner consumer confidence by ensuring credible third-party verification of manufacturers’ compostability claims. Compostability certification provides a level of assurance that the specific product or packaging can indeed biologically degrade in accordance with the certifying bodies’ standards and not impact the compost quality produced.

Canadian Compost CouncilCompostability Standard and Certification Protocol, September 2011

If it doesn’t help clear this up for you, we’re happy to help add some more context.

Give us a call (604-630-5115) for some BSIbio “office hours” support.

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