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What are bioplastics?
Bioplastics are a large family of different materials
Bioplastics are not just one single material. They comprise of a whole family of materials with
different properties and applications. According to European Bioplastics, a plastic material is
defined as a bioplastic if it is either biobased, biodegradable, or features both properties.
Bioplastics are biobased, biodegradable, or both.
Biobased: The term biobased means that the material or product is (partly) derived from biomass
(plants). Biomass used for bioplastics stems from e.g. corn, sugarcane, or cellulose.
Biodegradable: Biodegradation is a chemical process during which microorganisms that are
available in the environment convert materials into natural substances such as water, carbon
dioxide, and compost (artificial additives are not needed). The process of biodegradation depends
on the surrounding environmental conditions (e.g. location or temperature), on the material and
on the application.
Biobased does not equal biodegradable
The property of biodegradation does not depend on the resource basis of a material but is rather
linked to its chemical structure. In other words, 100 percent biobased plastics may be non-
biodegradable, and 100 percent fossil based plastics can biodegrade.
Benefits of bioplastics
Bioplastics are driving the evolution of plastics. There are two major advantages of biobased
plastic products compared to their conventional versions: they save fossil resources by using
biomass which regenerates (annually) and provides the unique potential of carbon neutrality.
Furthermore, biodegradability is an add-on property of certain types of bioplastics. It offers
additional means of recovery at the end of a products life.
Download our Fact Sheet on What are bioplastics?

Bioplastic materials
Today, there is a bioplastic alternative for almost every conventional plastic material and
corresponding application. Bioplastics plastics that are biobased, biodegradable, or both have
the same properties as conventional plastics and offer additional advantages, such as a reduced
carbon footprint or additional waste management options such as composting. Bioplastics are an
essential part of the bioeconomy and a fast-growing, innovative industry that has the potential to
decouple economic growth from resource depletion and environmental impact. Bioplastics are a
diverse family of materials with differing properties. There are three main groups:
Biobased or partially biobased non-biodegradable plastics such as biobased PE, PP, or
PET (so-called drop-ins) and biobased technical performance polymers such as PTT or TPC-ET;
Plastics that are both biobased and biodegradable, such as PLA and PHA or PBS;
Plastics that are based on fossil resources and are biodegradable, such as PBAT.
Currently, bioplastics represent about one per cent of the about 320 million tonnes of plastic
produced annually. But as demand is rising and with more sophisticated materials, applications,
and products emerging, the market is already growing very dynamically. Roughly 85 percent of
plastics could technically be substituted with biobased plastics (according to ProBIP, 2009).
Material properties
Biobased or partially biobased durable plastics, such as biobased or partially biobased PE, PET
or PVC, possess properties, which are identical to their conventional versions. These bioplastics
are technically equivalent to their fossil counterparts; yet, they help to reduce a products carbon
footprint. Moreover, they can be mechanically recycled in existing recycling streams.
Find out more about biobased plastics here.
Additionally, new materials such as PLA, PHA, cellulose or starch-based materials offer solutions
with completely new functionalities such as biodegradability and compostability and in some cases
optimised barrier properties. Find out more about biodegradable plastics here. Along with the
growth in variety of bioplastic materials, properties such as flexibility, durability, printability,
transparency, barrier, heat resistancy, gloss and many more have been significantly enhanced.
Accurate claims and labels ensure clarity and trust: Environmental claims of bioplastics materials
and products, such as biodegradability and the amount of biomass content, must always be
specific, accurate, and ideally provide a third party substantiation for these claims. A label awarded
in accordance with independent certification based on acknowledged standards guarantees that
the product fulfills the criteria claimed. As non-experts cannot distinguish bioplastics from
conventional plastics, reliable certification and labeling based on approved standards provided by
CEN, ASTM, or ISO help the consumer to identify these products and inform about additional
qualities the material or product possesses. For more information on relevant standards,
certificates, and labels, European Bioplastics has compiled a comprehensive Environmental
Communications Guide providing general recommendations as well as specific guidelines for
communicating environmental claims for bioplastics.
Biobased plastics
Biobased or partially biobased durable plastics, such as biobased or partially biobased PE, PET
or PVC, possess properties, which are identical to their conventional versions. These bioplastics
are technically equivalent to their fossil counterparts; yet, they help to reduce a products carbon
footprint. Moreover, they can be mechanically recycled in existing recycling streams.
Biobased content
Companies with biobased bioplastics can either indicate the biobased carbon content or the
biobased mass content of their products. As these units of measurement differ, the typical
numeric percentage value will differ, too, and must be taken into account, especially when drawing
comparisons.
A well-established methodology to measure the biobased carbon content in materials or products
is the 14C-method (EU standard: CEN/TS 16137, corresponding US-standard: ASTM 6866).
Certification schemes and derived product labels based on the European and the U.S. standard
are available for example by the Belgian certifier Vinotte or German certifier DIN CERTCO.

A material or product can also be specified as biobased by indicating its biobased mass content.
This method is complementary to the 14C-method and takes chemical elements other than the
biobased carbon into account, such as oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen. The French Association
Chimie du Vgtal (ACDV) has introduced a corresponding certification scheme and the European
Committee for Standardization (CEN) is currently developing a standard for this particular method.
Biodegradable plastics
The property of biodegradation does not depend on the resource basis of a material. This feature
is directly linked to the chemical structure of the polymer and can benefit particular applications,
in particular packaging. Biodegradable plastic types offer new ways of recovery and recycling
(organic recycling). If certified compostable according to international standards such as the EN
13432 (preferably by an independent third party), these plastics can be composted in industrial
composting plants.
It is misleading to merely claim biodegradability without any standard specification. If a material or
product is advertised to be biodegradable, further information about the timeframe, the level of
biodegradation, and the required surrounding conditions should be provided, too.
Wherever possible, European Bioplastics recommends to focus on the more specific claim of
compostability, and to back it up with corresponding standard references (ISO 17088, EN 13432
/ 14995 or ASTM 6400 or 6868), a certification, and an according label (Seedling label via Vinotte
or DIN CERTCO, OK compost label via Vinotte).

If a product is specified to be compostable, the claim is not only unambiguous (i.e. to be treated
in an industrial compost plant), but there is another big benefit: It differentiates itself from products
marketed to be oxo-biodegradable or similar claims. Products marketed as oxo-biodegradable
do not fulfil the requirements of EN 13432 on industrial compostability, and are therefore not
allowed to carry the seedling label.
Oxo-fragmentation is not biodegradation
Plastics that are advertised as being oxo-degradable or oxo-biodegradable are made from
conventional plastics and mixed with additives in order to mimic biodegradation. However, the
main effect of oxidation is a mere fragmentation of the material or product into small particles that
remain in the environment. These products to not comply with the standards for compostability
and are not considered bioplastics.
For more information, please see our corresponding publications or go to the chapter Oxo-
biodegradability.
Waste management and recovery options for bioplastics
Bioplastics are suitable for a broad range of end-of-life options, including reuse, mechanical
recycling, organic recycling, and energy recovery. The overwhelming part of the bioplastic volume
produced today can easily be recycled alongside their conventional counterparts where separate
recycling streams for certain material types exist (e.g. biobased PE in the PE-stream or biobased
PET in the PET-stream). This way, bioplastics contribute to higher recycling quotas in the EU and
the implementation of the circular economy.

Furthermore, using biodegradable and compostable plastic products such as (biowaste) bags,
food packaging, and cutlery strengthens industrial composting (organic recycling) as a waste
management option and helps to increase waste management efficiency. If bioplastics can no
longer be reused or recycled, it is nevertheless possible to use them in the production of bio-
energy.
As with conventional plastics, the manner in which bioplastics waste is actually recovered depends
on the type of product and bioplastics material used, the inherent quantities and the recovery
systems available.

Littering
European Bioplastics does not support any statements that advertise bioplastics as a solution to
the littering problems. Littering refers to careless discarding of waste and is not a legitimate means
of disposal.
Biodegradable plastics are often regarded as a possible solution to this problem as they can be
decomposed by micro-organisms without producing harmful or noxious residue during
decomposition. However, the process of biodegradation is dependent on certain environmental
conditions. Products suitable for industrial composting (as defined according to the EN 13432
standard) are fit for the conditions in a composting plant, but not for those outside in nature.
It is imperative for the consumer to continue to be conscious of the fact that no matter what type
of packaging, it must be subject to appropriate disposal and recovery processes. Landfilling is a
hurdle to resource efficiency. Even though it is still one of the main disposal options in many
countries in Europe, continual progress towards a phase-out can be observed. In 2014, around
31 percent of plastic waste went to landfills, 7 percent less compared to 2012. European
Bioplastics supports a European-wide ban on landfilling for plastic products and supports any
measures in order to increase recycling and recovery of plastics waste.
Biodegradable/Compostable plastics in the marine environment:
Marine litter is one of the main threats to the environment. The largest share of marine litter
consists of plastics that originate from a variety of sources, including shipping activities,
ineffectively managed landfills, and public littering. The persistence of the majority of these plastics
poses the biggest problem to the (marine) environment if not properly disposed of.
In areas where separate biowaste collection exists, compostable biowaste bags can help divert
biowaste including the bags in which it is collected from landfills, thereby reducing the amount
of plastic bags entering into the marine environment in the first place. Yet, biodegradable plastics
should not be considered a solution to the problem of marine litter. Littering should never be
promoted or accepted for any kind of waste, neither on land nor at sea including all varieties of
plastics. Instead, the issue needs to be addressed by educative and informative measures to raise
awareness for proper and controlled ways of management, disposal, and (organic) recycling.
Currently, there is no international standard available that appropriately describes the
biodegradation of plastics in the marine environment. However, a number of standardization
projects are in progress at ISO and ASTM level on how to measure marine biodegradation.
For more information, see our position paper on marine litter.
Find more comprehensive information on the waste management options for bioplastics in our
fact sheet on the end of life options as well as our position paper on the EU Cirular Economy
Proposal.
Composting
Compostability is a clear benefit when plastic items are mixed with biowaste. Under these
conditions, mechanical recycling is not feasible, neither for plastics nor biowaste. The use of
compostable plastics makes the mixed waste suitable for organic recycling (composting), enabling
the shift from recovery to recycling (a treatment option which ranks higher on the European waste
hierarchy). This way, biowaste is diverted from other recycling streams or from landfill and
facilitating separate collection resulting in the creation of more valuable compost.
In order to be suitable for organic recycling, products and materials need to meet the strict criteria
of the European norm EN 13432 on industrial compostability. Following successful certification,
these products and materials are permitted to be advertised and labelled as compostable. The
Seedling label is a well-known mark for products conforming to EN 13432.
The process of biodegradation under aerobic conditions within a time frame of 6-12 weeks is
called composting. Composting of industrial products usually takes place in industrial composting
plants, where controlled conditions (e.g. temperature, humidity, aeration) are given. Microbes, like
bacteria or fungi and their enzymes, are able to digest the chain structure of compostable
polymers as a source of nutrition. The resulting end products are water, carbon dioxide CO2 and
a little biomass.
The speed of biodegradation depends on the temperature (50-70C are typical for a industrial
composting process), humidity (water is required for the process), and the number and types of
microbes. In industrial composting facilities, all those requirements are given and certified
compostable plastic products are converted into CO2, water and biomass within 6 to 12 weeks.
In the food supply chain, in supermarkets or at home, biodegradation occurs at a very low speed
in comparison to composting. Organic household waste is collected by source separation from
residual waste, such as in bio-bins, and treated in composting plants to produce quality compost.
To find out more about industrial composting, have a look at our background paper.
Home composting
Home-composting if done properly can have benefits compared to landfilling and incineration
of organic waste: due to lower volumes of waste collected from households it may lead to reduced
waste management fees, and it produces compost for private gardening use. However, as with
landfilling, home-composting bears the risk of producing greenhouse gases. What is more, some
types of kitchen waste with particularly high energy content, such as meat and fish, are not suitable
for home-composting. While home-composting can complement industrial composting and
biomethanisation in AD plants, it cannot replace it. European Bioplastics recommends the
separate collection of organic household waste with a dedicated kerbside waste collection system
and subsequent treatment in industrial composting or AD plants. Home-composting should only
be considered as an additional option for the treatment of organic waste, especially for garden
waste.
More information on home-composting of compostable plastics can be found in our position paper
on home-composting.
Mechanical recycling
As most conventional plastics, biobased plastics need to be recycled in separate streams for each
material type (e.g. PET-stream). Where a recycling stream for a specific plastic type is established
(e.g. PE or PET), the biobased alternatives (bio-PE, bio-PET) can be recycled together with their
conventional counterparts.
Furthermore, PLA is a bioplastic that is potentially recyclable but for which no separate recycling
stream yet exists. The corresponding sorting technology is, however, already available. Specific
material recycling of clean production scraps is established and saves valuable resources. The
recycling of PLA after its use (so called post consumer plastics) will be feasible as soon as the
commercial volumes and sales increase sufficiently to cover the investments required. Numerous
research projects and tests have been accomplished or are currently underway organised e.g. by
WRAP (UK), COREPLA (Italy), Re-PLA Cycle (Germany), r-PLA (Belgium).
Bioplastics Glossary
This glossary aspires to support a common understanding of relevant terms of the bioplastics
industry and market. The definitions will be regularly updated depending on new developments in
e.g. standardisation and EU legislation.
If you have questions regarding any of the terms defined, please contact us and share your
feedback with us at press(at)europeanbioplastics.org
1st generation feedstock: Plants that are rich on carbohydrates, such as corn or sugar cane, can
be used as food as well as animal feed and are known as food crops or so-called 1st generation
feedstock. The source of carbon for producing bioplastics is the sugar, lipid or starch directly
extracted from a plant. First generation feedstock has been cultivated over centuries with regard
to reducing their land use, increasing their yields and resistance to pests. It is currently also the
most efficient feedstock for the production of bioplastics.
2nd generation feedstock : 2nd generation feedstock refers to feedstock not suitable for food or
feed production. It can be either non-food crops (e.g. cellulose) or waste materials from 1st
generation feedstock (e.g. waste vegetable oil).
3rd generation feedstock: The term 3rd generation feedstock refers to biomass derived from
algae, which has a higher growth yield than either 1st and 2nd generation feedstock, and therefore
has been allocated their own category.
Aerobic digestion: Aerobic means in the presence of oxygen. Composting, an aerobic
process, involves microorganisms accessing the oxygen present in the surround- ing atmosphere
and breaking down the organic material into energy, CO2, water, and biomass, whereby a part of
the energy of the organic material is released as heat. (See also > Composting)
Anaerobic digestion: Anaerobic digestion is a process in which organic matter is degraded by a
microbial population of bacteria in the absence of oxygen. This process produces methane and
carbon dioxide (biogas) and compost . During the process, no heat is being released. The resulting
biogas can be treated in a Combined Heat and Power Plant (CHP) to produce electricity and heat
or be upgraded into bio-methane.
Automatic sorting: Automatic sorting means the automatic separation of specific recyclable
material types or subtypes from the stream of collected waste (municipal, household, industry,
etc.). It is carried out by machines using NIR (= near infrared) or photo sorting systems but still
requires checks by hand to ensure the best quality output.
Biobased: he term biobased describes a material or product that is (at least in part) derived from
biomass.
Biobased carbon: Biobased carbon is carbon derived from biomass. A material or product that is
made from fossil and renewable resources contains fossil and biobased carbon
Biobased carbon content : Biobased carbon content is a variable that describes the share of
carbon that is derived from biomass in a material or product. The share of biobased carbon in the
material or product is often expressed as percentage of the weight (mass) of the total organic
carbon, or the total carbon of the product.
Biobased carbon content is measured using the 14C method (radio carbon dating method) that
adheres to the technical specification CEN/TS 16137 and the upcoming European norm EN 16640
(or the corresponding US standard ASTM 6866).
Biobased labels: Labels stating that a product or a material is biobased should ideally be based
on harmonised standard and feature a corresponding certificate by an independent third-party
institution. The label should also name the share (or percentage) of the biobased content in the
final product. Corresponding certification systems and labels are available via DIN CERTCO and
Vinotte. Both authorities base their certification on the technical specification CEN/ TS 16137
and the upcoming European norm EN 16640 (14C method for determining biobased carbon
content).
Certification and corresponding labels showing the biobased mass content (as opposed to the
biobased content) have been developed by the French Association Chimie du Vgtal and are
based on the European norm EN 16640.

Biobased (mass) content : This variable describes the fraction of the total mass of a
product/material that is derived from biomass. Usually it is expressed as percentage of the total
mass of the product/material. The method to determine the biobased mass content is
complementary to the determination of the biobased carbon content, but also takes into account
other elements present in biobased products in large quantities (oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc.).
It has been developed and tested by the Association Chimie du Vgtal (ACDV). The CEN-
Technical Committee 411 (Working Group 5) uses the term biobased content synonymously to
describe the term biobased mass content. The corresponding European norm is EN 16785 1
(upcoming).
Biobased plastic : A plastic, whose constitutional units are wholly or partly made from
biomass (CEN TR 15932).
Biodegradable: Biodegradation is a natural chemical process in which materials are being
transformed into natural substances such as water, carbon and biomass with the help of
microorganisms. The process of biodegradation depends on the environmental conditions as well
as on the material or application itself. Consequently, the process and its outcome can vary
considerably.
Biodegradability is linked to the structure of the polymer chain and does not depend on the origin
of the raw materials.
Claims about biodegradability should always feature additional specifications about the timeframe
and environment the material can biodegrade in as well as certificates or test results in order to
avoid vague or misleading claims. There is currently no overarching standard to back up claims
about biodegradability. For more information on environmental claims, please have a look at the
Environmental Communications Guide.
Biomass : Material of biological origin excluding material embedded in geological formations and
material transformed to fossilised material. Biomass includes organic material, e.g. trees, crops,
grasses, tree litter, algae, and waste of biological origin e.g. manure. Biomass used for bioplastics
is currently mainly derived from corn, sugarcane, or cellulose.
Bioplastics: Bioplastics constitute a broad range of materials and products that are biobased,
biodegradable/compostable, or both.
Bioplastic material abbreviations : CA = cellulose acetate
HDPE = high density polyethylene
LDPE = low density polyethylene
PA = polyamide
PBAT = polybutylene adipate-co-terephthalate
PBS = Polybutylene succinate
PCL = Polycaprolacton
PE = polyethylene
PEF =polyethylene fuanorate
PET = polyethylene terephthalate
PHA = polyhydroxyalkanoate
PHB = polyhydroxybutyrate
PLA = polylactic acid
PP = polypropylene
PTT = polytrimethylene terephthalate
Cascade use : Cascade use of renewable feedstock means that the biomass is first used
to produce biobased industrial products and afterwards due to their favourable energy balance
for energy generation (e.g. biobased compostable plastic products in biogas production). This
way, the feedstock is used efficiently and the added value is increased considerably.
Certification: Certification is a process in which materials/products undergo a string of tests in
order to verify that they fulfil certain requirements. Sound certification systems should be based
on (ideally harmonised) European standards or technical specifications (according to CEN, for
example) and be performed by independent third-party laboratories. Successful certification
guarantee high product safety. On this basis, corresponding labels can be awarded that help the
consumer to make an informed decision.
Carbon footprint of products (CFPs) and/or Product Carbon Footprint (PCFs) Balance of
greenhouse gas emissions and removal in a production process expressed as a CO2 equivalent
and based on a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The CO2 equivalent of a specific amount of a
greenhouse gas is calculated as the mass of a given greenhouse gas multiplied by its global
warming potential. The ISO 14067 standard for the Carbon Footprint of Products provides
detailed information on how to measure and report on the CFPs and how to use carbon footprint
claims correctly. The CFP is a subset of the LCA as it focuses on a single environmental impact
i.e. climate change.
CO2-neutrality: CO2-neutrality describes a material or product having a net zero carbon footprint.
The amount of carbon released is balanced out by an equivalent amount, either sequestered or
offset, or by purchasing sufficient carbon credits to make up the difference. The latter option is not
permissible when communicating Life Cycle Assessments or carbon footprints regarding a
material or product (according to ISO 14067). Most products do not attain car-bon-neutrality when
their complete life cycle is taken into account. However, if an assessment of a material is
conducted (cradle to gate), carbon neutrality can be a valid claim in a business-to-business
context. Yet, if the material carbon footprint (cradle to gate) is negative, the resulting product
may even attain CO2-neutrality.
Compostability: Compostability is a characteristic of a product that enables biodegradation under
specific conditions (i.e. a certain temperature, timeframe, etc.). At the end of this process, for
example in an industrial composting plant, only natural products remain (water, carbon, biomass).
Currently, the distinction is made between industrial and home composting.
The specific criteria for industrial compostability of packaging materials, such as the environment,
temperature, and timeframe, have been defined in EN 13432 (or equivalent ASTM 6400).
Materials and products complying with this standard can be certified and subsequently labelled
accordingly with the Seedling label. There is currently no European standard for home
composting. Yet, national regulations, standards, or certification programmes do exist in Italy (UNI
11183), Belgium (Vinotte, OK compost home label) and the United Kingdom.
Composting: Composting is the controlled aerobic (oxygen-requiring) decomposition of organic
materials by microorganisms in controlled conditions. It reduces the volume and mass of the raw
materials while transforming them into a valuable soil conditioner: compost.
Mentions about the composting of bioplastics usually refer to industrial composting in a managed
composting facility (criteria for which are defined in EN 13432).
The main difference between industrial and home/garden composting is that temperatures in
industrial composting facilities are much higher and kept stable, whereas the temperature of a
home compost are usually lower and less constant as well as being influenced by multiple other
factors such as weather conditions. Home composting is a much slower process than industrial
composting involving a comparatively smaller volume of waste. While a French norm has recently
been developed, a European norm for home composting is yet to be developed.
Enviromental claim: A statement, symbol, or graphic that indicates one or more environmental
aspect(s) of a product, a component, packaging or a service (ISO 14021 on Self-declared
Environmental Claims).
For more information on environmental claims, refer to the Environmental Communications Guide.
End-of-waste: End-of-waste criteria specify when certain waste ceases to be waste and obtains a
status of a product (or a secondary raw material).
Energy recovery: Describes the recovery and exploitation of the energy potential in (plastic) waste
for the production of electricity or heat in waste incineration plants (waste-to-energy).
Enzyme-mediated plastics:
Enzyme-mediated plastics are not bioplastics (see definition of bioplastics). Instead, a
conventional non-biodegradable plastic (e.g. fossil-based PE) is enriched with small amounts of
an organic additive. Microorganisms are supposed to consume these additives expanding the
degradation process to the non-biodegradable PE, thus making the material degrade. After some
time, the plastic is supposed to visually disappear and to be completely converted into carbon
dioxide and water. This is a theoretical concept, which has yet to be backed up by any verifiable
proof. Producers promote enzyme-mediated plastics as a solu-tion to littering. Yet, since no proof
for the degradation process has been provided, the environmentally beneficial effects are highly
questionable
Genetically modified organism (GMO): Genetically modified organism (GMO) Organisms such as
plants and animals whose genetic material (DNA) has been altered are called genetically modified
organisms (GMOs). Food and feed that contain or consist of such GMOs or are produced from
GMOs are called genetically modified (GM) food or feed (European Commission). If GM crops are
used in the production of bioplastics, the multiple-stage processing and the high heat used to
create the polymer removes all traces of genetic material. This means that the final bioplastics
product contains no genetic traces. Provided that the resulting bioplastic complies to all other
requirements set out for food contact (e.g. the European Food Contact Regulation or the US FDA
Food Contact Requirement), it is therefore well suited to be used for food packaging as it contains
no genetically modified material.
Greenhouse gas (GHG): Genetically modified organism (GMO) Organisms such as plants and
animals whose genetic material (DNA) has been altered are called genetically modified organisms
(GMOs). Food and feed that contain or consist of such GMOs or are produced from GMOs
are called genetically modified (GM) food or feed (European Commission). If GM crops are used
in the production of bioplastics, the multiple-stage processing and the high heat used to create the
polymer removes all traces of genetic material. This means that the final bioplastics product
contains no genetic traces. Provided that the resulting bioplastic complies to all other requirements
set out for food contact (e.g. the European Food Contact Regulation or the US FDA Food Contact
Requirement), it is therefore well suited to be used for food packaging as it contains no genetically
modified material.
Greenwashing: The act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of
a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service (TerraChoice Group Inc, 2009).
Home composting: See Composting. See Composting.
Industrial composting: See Composting
Land use: The area required to grow sufficient feedstock to produce (a) certain product(s) (food,
feed or industrial products such as bioplastics). Todays bioplastic production requires less than
0.01 percent of the global agricultural area of 5 billion hectares. In contrast to this, the current land
use for food and feed production as well as for use as pastures amounts to 96-97 percent.
Life cycle: The consecutive and interlinked stages of a production process from raw material
acquisition or generation of natural resources to its final disposal (ISO 14044 on Life-Cycle
Assessment).
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): LCA is the compilation and evaluation of the input, output and the
potential environmental impact of a product system throughout its life cycle (ISO 14044 on Life
Cycle Assessment). It is sometimes also referred to as life cycle analysis, ecobalance or cradle-
to-grave analysis.
Littering: Littering is the (illegal) act of dropping waste, such as cigarette butts, paper, tins, and
bottles, in open or public spaces instead of putting it in respective waste bins.
Marine litter: Following the European Commissions definition, marine litter consists of items that
have been deliberately discarded, unintentionally lost or transported by winds and rivers into the
sea and onto beaches. It mainly consists of plastics, wood, metals, glass, rubber, clothing and
paper. Marine debris originates from a variety of sources. Shipping and fishing activities are the
predominant sea-based sources; ineffectively managed landfills as well as pub-lic littering the
main land-based sources. Marine litter can pose a threat to living organisms, especially due to
potential ingestion or entanglement.
Currently, there is no international standard available to appropriately describe the biodegradation
of plastics in the marine environment. However, a number of standardisation projects are currently
being developed at ISO and ASTM level. Furthermore, the European project OPEN BIO
addresses the marine biodegradation of biobased products.
Mass balance: Mass balance describes the relationship between input and output of a specific
substance within a system in which the output from the system cannot exceed the input into the
system.
Oxo-(bio)degradable / oxo-degradable / oxo-fragmentable plastics: Oxo-(bio)degradable / oxo-
degradable / oxo-fragmentable plastics Oxo-fragmentable materials and products do not
biodegrade. The underlying technology of oxo-degradability or oxo-fragmentation is based on
special additives, which, if incorporated into standard resins, are purported to accelerate the
fragmentation of the film products. Oxo-degradable or oxo-fragmentable materials do not meet
accepted industry standards on compostability such as EN 13432 (see also composting).
Offsetting: A mechanism for compensating all or parts of the carbon footprint of a product through
the prevention, release of, reduction in, or removal of an amount of greenhouse gas emissions in
a process outside the product system. Examples include external investment in renewable energy
technologies, energy efficiency measures, or afforestation/reforestation. Offsetting is not
permissible in the carbon footprint of a products quantification and is thus not reflected in any
carbon footprint communication. (ISO 14021 on Self-Declared Environmental Claims and ISO
14067 on Quantification and Communication of Carbon Footprints).
Organic recycling: Organic recycling means the treatment of separately collected organic waste by
anaerobic digestion and/or composting.
Plastics: Plastic is a generic term for a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic materials.
The term plastic is derived from the Greek word plastikos meaning fit for moulding and plastos
meaning moulded. It refers to the materials malleability or plasticity during manu-facturing, which
allows it to be cast, pressed, or extruded into a variety of shapes.
There are two broad categories of plastic materials: thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics.
Thermoplastics can be heated up to form products. If these end products are reheated, the plastic
will soften and melt again. In contrast, thermoset plastics can be melted and formed, but once
they have solidified, they stay solid and, unlike thermoplastics, cannot be remelted (Source:
Plastics Europe).
Product environmental footprint (PEF): A method based on the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to
calculate the envi- ronmental per-formance of a product. It indicates the various
environmental impacts or the aggregated environmental impact over the full lifespan of a product
and not merely the climate impact. This concept is not to be confused with the concept of carbon
footprinting, which has been in use for several years. The environmental impacts taken into
account include emissions into water or soil, the use of scarce resources and other impacts, such
as noise, and land use.
Organic recycling: Organic recycling means the treatment of separately collected organic waste by
anaerobic digestion and/or composting.
Recyclable / recyclability: A characteristic of goods, packaging or associated components that can
be diverted from the waste stream through available processes and infra- structure and can be
collected, pro-cessed and returned to use in form of raw materials or goods. (ISO 14021 on Self-
declared Environmental Claims.
Recovery: According to the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC, recovery means any
operation the principal result of which is waste serving a useful purpose by replacing other
materials which would otherwise have been used to fulfil a particular function, or waste being pre-
pared to fulfil that function, in the plant or in the wider economy.
Renewable feedstock: Agricultural raw materials not used as food or feed but as raw material for
industrial prod-ucts or to generate energy. The use of renewable resour- ces by industry reduces
the de-pendency on fossil resources and, hence, reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emis-
sions. Biobased plastics are predominantly made from annual crops such as corn, cereals, and
sugar beet or perennial cultures such as cassava and sugar cane.
Resource efficiency: Resource efficiency refers to the use of limited natural resources in
a sustainable way while minimising impacts on the environment. A resource- efficient economy
creates more output or value with the same or less input.
Seedling: The Seedling compostability label is connected to the standard EN 13432/EN 14995
and a certification process managed by the independent institutions DIN CERTCO and Vinotte.
Bioplastic products carrying the Seedling label fulfil the criteria laid down in EN 13432 regarding
industrial compostability.
Separate Collection: Separate collection is a selective collection of waste materials intended
for mechanical or organic recycling. It is carried out for a specific type of product or waste, e.g.
packaging, organic waste, and glass. Specifically designated bags, bins or container stations help
to manage the different streams.
Standardisation: Standardisation is the effort made by industrial and other stakeholders to define
criteria for the description of products and services. The idea is to ease competition and the
commercial growth by overcoming barriers that result from unclear or incompatible specifications.
The use of standards is voluntary. This means that a company can decide whether to seek
compliance with a standard or not. Should the company decide not to comply, it is not permissible
to make reference to the standard.
Certain European standards are known as harmonised standards. This means that the European
Commission has mandated the European Standardisation Organisation (CEN) to specify the
content of the standard.
Standards specify, for example, how the biodegradability or renewability of a given material needs
to be measured, or which criteria need to be fulfilled. A product or service that fulfils these
requirements can legitimately claim compliance to the specific standard.
Sustainable sourcing: Sustainable sourcing of renewable feedstock for biobased plastics is a
pre- requisite for more sustainable products. Impacts such as the deforestation of protected
habitats or social and environmental damage arising from poor agricultural practices must be
avoided. Corresponding certification schemes, such as ISCC PLUS, WLC or BonSucro, are an
appropriate tool for ensuring the sustainable sourcing of biomass for all applications around the
globe.
Sustainability: characteristic or state whereby the needs of the present population can be met
without compromising the ability of future generations or populations in other locations to meet
their needs. (UNEP)
Waste hierarchy: In the European Union Waste Framework Directive 2008 a waste hierarchy has
been defined in five steps: 1. prevention, 2. preparation for re-use, 3. recycling, 4. other recovery,
e.g. energy recovery and 5. disposal. The goal is to conserve resources as best possible.
Separate Collection: Separate collection is a selective collection of waste materials intended
for mechanical or organic recycling. It is carried out for a specific type of product or waste, e.g.
packaging, organic waste, and glass. Specifically designated bags, bins or container stations help
to manage the different streams
Standardisation: Standardisation is the effort made by industrial and other stakeholders to define
criteria for the description of products and services. The idea is to ease competition and the
commercial growth by overcoming barriers that result from unclear or incompatible specifications.
The use of standards is voluntary. This means that a company can decide whether to seek
compliance with a standard or not. Should the company decide not to comply, it is not permissible
to make reference to the standard.
Certain European standards are known as harmonised standards. This means that the European
Commission has mandated the European Standardisation Organisation (CEN) to specify the
content of the standard.
Standards specify, for example, how the biodegradability or renewability of a given material needs
to be measured, or which criteria need to be fulfilled. A product or service that fulfils these
requirements can legitimately claim compliance to the specific standard.
Sustainable sourcing: Sustainable sourcing of renewable feedstock for biobased plastics is a
pre- requisite for more sustainable products. Impacts such as the deforestation of protected
habitats or social and environmental damage arising from poor agricultural practices must be
avoided. Corresponding certification schemes, such as ISCC PLUS, WLC or BonSucro, are an
appropriate tool for ensuring the sustainable sourcing of biomass for all applications around the
globe.
Sustainability: A characteristic or state whereby the needs of the present population can be met
without compromising the ability of future generations or populations in other locations to meet
their needs. (UNEP)