When can the biodegradability and compostability of packaging be claimed?

In order to be able to transfer packaging waste (and other products) biodegradable and compostable to the collection of organic waste, the Legislative Decree 116/20201 amended art. 182-ter of the Legislative Decree. 152/2006 (Organic waste): in particular, paragraph 6 of the aforementioned article establishes that waste, including packaging waste, with similar biodegradability and compostability properties compared to organic waste, must be collected and recycled together with the latter if:

a) are certified in compliance, by accredited bodies, with the European standard EN 13432 for packaging recoverable by composting or biodegradation, or with the European standard EN 14995 for other products other than packaging;

b) are appropriately labeled and bear, in addition to the mention of compliance with the aforementioned European standards, identification elements of the producer and the certifier, as well as suitable instructions for consumers to transfer such waste to the separate collection and recycling of organic waste circuit;

c) by 31 December 2023 are traced in such a way as to be able to be distinguished and separated from conventional plastics in common waste sorting plants and organic recycling plants.

This new provision, in addition to encouraging the recycling of organic waste, also introduces important innovations in terms of labeling of compostable packaging (and other products), since these, in addition to the information required by art. 219, paragraph 5 of the Legislative Decree. 152/2006, must also include the following elements on the label:

– mention of the compliance of the packaging with European standards;

– the identification elements of the producer and the certifier;

– suitable instructions for the consumer to dispose of such waste in the separate collection circuit and in the recycling of organic waste.

It is therefore clear that, for the purposes of the collection and recycling of compostable products in household waste, all biodegradable and compostable packaging must be certified in compliance with UNI EN 13432 (Requirements for packaging recoverable by composting and biodegradation).

The certification is an act of formal recognition of conformity to a reference technical standard, which is issued by a certifying body which, in turn, has been accredited by Accredia, a recognized association that operates on a non-profit basis under the supervision of the Ministry of Economical progress. Once accredited, the bodies and laboratories can issue on the market certificates of conformity and calibration, verification declarations, test, analysis and inspection reports, with the ‘Accredia’ accreditation mark.

Through the certification issued by the accredited third party, the manufacturer or supplier can demonstrate to the market their ability to obtain and maintain the conformity of the products manufactured or the services provided. To this end, the conformity mark is used, which is affixed to the product packaging or other external supports (the term “brand” refers exclusively to a graphic symbol that is affixed to the packaging in order to distinguish the products that have obtained a certain certification. Basically, following the positive outcome of the verification and with the issue of the certification, there is, by the third party, the concession for the use of a logo / mark of conformity for a period of time defined). The mark, which certifies that the certification has been obtained, usually bears the so-called licensee code, that is an alphanumeric code that allows to trace the person who obtained the certification and the certified product.

In the specific case of the UNI EN 13432 technical standard, being product certification, the certification service can only be issued by product certification bodies that have been accredited according to ISO / IEC 17065. On the Accredia website it is possible to consult a database (https://www.accredia.it/banche-dati/) which lists the bodies and laboratories accredited to issue these certificates of conformity.

In order to issue the certificate of conformity, these bodies or laboratories verify that the packaging in question possesses the characteristics established by the standard, namely:

– biodegrade at least 90% in 6 months (that is, at least 90% of the organic carbon constituting the material must be transformed into carbon dioxide);

– in contact with organic materials for three months, the mass of the material must consist of at least 90% of fragments smaller than 2 mm (to be verified according to the EN 14045 standard);

– the material must not have negative effects on the composting process;

– low concentration of heavy metals added to the material;

– PH values, salt content, concentrations of volatile solids, contractions of nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium must be below the established limits.

Furthermore, in order to maintain the certification obtained during its period of validity, the possibility of checks, sampling and audits by the certification body is envisaged to certify the compliance of the products on the market with those that originally obtained the certification.

Last modified on 21/11/2021