These standards are a point of reference for polymeric raw material and packaging manufacturers, public authorities, composters and consumers because they help to identify virtuous products in accordance with the regulations, which can legitimately claim to be both 'biodegradable' and 'compostable' and can therefore be recycled together with household food waste.
According to UNI EN 13432, biodegradable and compostable packaging must have the following characteristics in order to be collected and recycled together with household food waste:
- Biodegradability, meaning the capacity of a compostable material to be converted into CO2 (carbon dioxide) by the action of microorganisms
- Disintegration, namely fragmentation and invisibility in the final compost
- Absence of negative effects on the composting process and the quality of the compost
- Low levels of heavy metals and fluorinated compounds
- Other chemical and physical parameters (absence of ecotoxic effects on plants)
Each of these requirements must be met simultaneously for a material to be defined as compostable. For example, a biodegradable material is not necessarily compostable because, to be defined as such, it must also disintegrate during the composting cycle within the time frame set by standard EN 13432.
To facilitate recognisability, all bioplastic packaging must bear a mark certifying its compostability, in accordance with the standard. Although the quantity of non-compliant carrier bags on the market is gradually decreasing, illegal practices still continue: one in four bags is still not compliant.
In Italy, several entities issue the certifications associated with compostability marks. The various marks are shown below: the inclusion of one of these symbols on bioplastic materials confirms they possess the legal biodegradability and compostability characteristics.