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Key messages

  • Organics recycling helps to close the biological cycle of circular economy, which keeps the nutrients (e.g., nitrogen phosphorous) available for plants and microbes, soils fertile, and supports reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon in soils.
  • Organics recycling complements mechanical and chemical recycling of plastics.
  • Compostability must be certified according to international/ national standards securing full biodegradability to CO2, H2O, and microbial biomass without negative effects on compost quality and environment. 

About the topic

Organic waste (i.e., food and green waste) represents the biggest fraction (~45%) in municipal solid waste streams globally. It thus represents a valuable resource that can be recycled, for example, into soil amendments like compost. Organic/ Biological recycling means aerobic (composting) or anaerobic (digestion) treatment of biodegradable plastics waste under controlled conditions using microorganisms to produce, in the presence of oxygen, stabilized organic residues, carbon dioxide and water or, in the absence of oxygen, stabilized organic residues, methane, carbon dioxide and water. Organic recycling brings the nutrients back to agricultural fields or generates biogas for new products. It reduces global GHG emissions by diverting organic waste from incineration and landfills to separate treatment and restores soil organic carbon (SOC) through addition of compost. SOC secures soil fertility by restoring soil structure essential for plant growth and increases the soil biodiversity. The estimated global total land area degraded is 25-30%, having a massive impact on global greenhouse gases and the loss of biodiversity. High-quality soil amendments can only be produced when organic wastes are collected separately and brought into recycling. Furthermore, non-compostable plastics contaminate the organic waste stream leading to microplastics in soil amendments entering in the environment. 

What we offer

BASF produces certified home and/or industrial compostable plastics. ecovio® consists of compostable BASF polymer ecoflex® and other compostable polyesters such as polylactic acid (PLA), derived from renewable resources based on sugar. Additionally, BASF offers water-based compostable adhesive Epotal®. Such materials are used in food packaging and bags for organic waste collection. The certified compostable materials are developed to produce applications which help the separate collection of organic household wastes and/ or reduce the number of conventional (non-compostable) products in the organic waste streams. 

What we ask for

  • Organic recycling should be accepted on par with mechanical and chemical recycling in legal, regulatory, and normative areas.
  • The use of certified compostable plastic materials should be supported in specific applications where they provide certain benefits: For example, support easier and hygienic separate collection of organic waste and prevent microplastics from conventional (non-compostable) plastics in organic recycling streams (e.g., bags, brewing aid, selected fruit and vegetable packaging, fruit stickers). 
  • Separate collection and recycling of organics is essential part of circular economy and should therefore be set-up globally. Local infrastructure should be considered to define the end-of-life treatment of compostable materials: Countries with industrial organic waste treatment should focus on certified industrial compostable products. For countries with less professionalized systems for organic recycling (e.g., community composting), a certified home-compostable solution is recommended to fit with local infrastructure (always check local infrastructure and potentials to develop).
  • Compostability must be certified according to international/ national standards ensuring full biodegradability to CO2, H2O, and microbial biomass without negative effects on ecotoxicology (e.g., plant germination) and compost and has a stringent control of chemical composition and additives. Certified compostability must not require additives.
  • Certified compostability does not allow or justify materials or products to be littered or brought into the context of environmental biodegradability or to be called a general solution against microplastics in the environment. 

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