How certified compostable and soil-biodegradable biopolymers contribute to a circular economy
BASF has been researching biodegradable, bio-based and certified compostable biopolymers for more than 30 years. The continuous development of these high-performance plastics takes place in close cooperation with customers, research institutes and local authorities. The focus always lies on the biopolymer's best environmental performance in regard to advancing organic recycling, no matter if the material contains fossil or renewable resources. For each individual application, environmental safety, cost efficiency and the social consequences have to be examined for its entire life cycle in order to find the most suitable material with the greatest benefit. With the development of every new application, it should always be considered if and how the option for organic recycling of biopolymers offers an added value.
Bioplastics as a means to increase organic recycling
Bioplastics do not substitute conventional plastics but complement them as special materials: They offer new properties and application possibilities - and are at the same time a means to increase organic recycling.
They are, for example, the optimal solution for certified compostable
• organic waste bags, dual-use shopping bags
• cling film
• fruit and vegetable bags
• food packaging, e.g. coffee capsules, cups, lids, trays
• coatings of cups and wrappings made of paper or cardboard
• or for soil-biodegradable mulch films in agriculture.
Correctly employed, biopolymers can contribute to reducing food waste, returning nutrients to the soil by means of greater volumes of compost generated or to avoiding the accumulation of microplastics in agricultural soil caused by thin mulch films made of polyethylene.
Thus biopolymers like BASF's ecoflex® (PBAT) and the compound ecovio® make an important contribution to circular economy by increasing organic recycling and closing the loop of the food value chain.
Discover our biopolymers expertise
Biodegradability, compostability and certification
Biopolymers comprise a whole family of materials – from bio-based to biodegradable. When we speak of biodegradable plastics, it means that these plastics can biodegrade in a controlled environment – be it in industrial compost, in home compost or in agricultural soil. The end of life where this micro-organic activity takes place is organic recycling. Biodegradability claims must be accompanied by national or international standards that define the reference framework, the testing methods and the relevant environment. The proof of the complete biological degradability of a particular biopolymer grade is verified by independent certificates based on these approved standards.
More end-of-life options, less green house gas emissions: the sustainability of biopolymers
Biopolymers extend end-of-life options for plastic products and reduce green house gas emissions. They support circular economy by closing the nutrient cycle of the food value chain - from production via responsible consumption to organic recycling and compost for farm soil. They do so by increasing shelf life of fresh food, enabling the easier collection of organic waste and preventing microplastics from inappropriate plastic waste in organic recycling or in agricultural soil. Food losses from fruit and vegetables, which account for 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions of food waste, are reduced. As well, the addition of compost to the soil leads to a significant increase of soil organic carbon. Thus biopolymers reduce the carbon footprint and support the sustainable handling of food along the value chain.
Experience how our biopolymers prove their worth in everyday life by enabling organic recycling
Biodegradable polymers in a Circular Economy: ecovio® and ecoflex®
Towards a circular economy: Biopolymers at the K Fair 2019
Modern cucumber production in Poland
Increasing organic recycling with the certified compostable biopolymer ecovio®
Modern and sustainable vegetable production in Italy
Dual-use shopping bags made of ecovio®
Industrial composting with the COOL Project, Australia
Closed-loop system with fun: Sustainable Saturdays, USA
Sustainable agriculture with mulch films in China
Community composting of bio-waste bags in Bad Dürkheim
Looking ahead in bioplastics development?
Read the latest research news.
Study by Wageningen University shows: compostable plastics break
down in less than 22 days in real-life industrial composting
A recent study by Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Netherlands, analyzed the fate of compostable packaging products in a full-scale industrial organic waste treatment facility. The independent research results confirm what producers of compostable plastics have been saying for a long time: The different tested EN13432 certified products broke down within a maximum of 22 days.
In a joint effort, the Dutch Waste Management Association and Holland Bioplastics, the association of the Dutch bioplastics industry, defined the research questions, which provided the basis for the project. While the waste management association selected and provided the composting plant, where the real-life test was conducted, the bioplastics producers provided the compostable packaging samples.
Independent study by ETH Zürich proves for the first time
the formation of biomass when PBAT biodegrades in soil
Thin polyethylene (PE) mulch films are used by farmers to increase crop yield. After harvesting it is often impossible for farmers to collect these films completely, especially when they are only a few micrometers thin. PE residues accumulate in the soil, since they do not break down.
Now a study from ETH Zürich, Switzerland, has shown for the first time that soil microbes can use films made from the plastic polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT) as food.
The microorganisms use the carbon from the polymer both to generate energy and to form biomass. This means that PBAT biologically degrades in the soil and does not remain there as microplastic as PE does.
We are a member of the European Bioplastics Association
European Bioplastics are committed to driving the evolution of plastics by raising awareness across all relevant stakeholder groups about the benefits of bioplastics in reducing the dependency on fossil resources, reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and using renewable resources more efficiently.
Technical articles on biopolymers by BASF and partners
BASF has been researching biopolymers for more than three decades, cooperating with other scientists to explore their possibilities and prove their performance. In our technical articles, published in trade magazines globally, you can find our insights, test results, technical data on different topics ranging from
sense or nonsense of bioplastics, application possibilities and field trials.
Please read on
Which material is the right one for your application? We can help!
For which application is the use of certified compostable biopolymers sensible and truly sustainable in order to advance organic recycling? Processors, brand owners and retailers are confronted by society to answer this question more and more often. BASF has competent experts that can support in eco-efficiency and life cycle analyses together with in-depth application knowledge. By comparing the ecological footprint of various material alternatives, we can examine together which plastic offers which kinds of advantages and where it makes sense to use certified compostable biopolymers to support a circular economy by increasing organic waste collection.