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Biodegradable Products Institute - Why It's Important

By Edited May 14, 2014 1 0

The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) is the leading certifier of compostable products and packaging in the United States. The BPI certifies products as compostable according to the scientific standards ASTM D6400 and ASTM D6868.

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About

The BPI is a 3rd party association comprised of individuals and organizations within the biodegradable products industry.

Goals

The BPI has 3 goals:
  1. Education - The BPI aims to inform consumers, businesses, and governmental organizations of the benefits of using biodegradable and compostable materials.
  2. Certification - The BPI certifies products as compostable in a commericial composting facility and allows products that meet this certification to use the BPI logo.
  3. Alliances - The BPI builds alliances across the biodegradable materials and packaging space to further the use and recovery of biodegradable materials and adoption of uniform standards worldwide.

Approved Products

The BPI has a list of products and materials that have been certified compostable according to ASTM standards. This list focuses on:
  • Compostable Bags,
  • Compostable Foodservice Ware,
  • Compostable Resins, and
  • Compostable Packaging Materials

Why is the BPI Important?

There is a lack of understanding amongst both consumers and businesses that the scientific definitions of the terms "biodegradable" and "compostable" mean two different things.

Products that are certified compostable must "undergo biological decomposition in a compost site as part of an available program, such that the plastic is not visually distinguishable and breaks down to carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass, at a rate consistent with known compostable materials (e.g. cellulose), and leaves no toxic residue." These products must meet scientific standards that ensure that: 1) the product biodegrades by 60-90% in 180 days (biodegradability), 2) that less than 10% of the remaining product is of a size 2mm or larger (disintegration), and 3) that the product leaves no levels of heavy metals in the soil or compost above that of a control group (eco toxicity).

Products that are biodegradable on the other hand need only "degrade from the action of naturally occurring microorganisms (e.g., bacteria, fungi) over a period of time". There is however no time requirement for this degredation.

As a result, many products in the marketplace have been greenwashing (e.g., Perfectouch Hot Cups or Taterware) and misrepresenting their environmental benefits by claiming to be compostable when they are in fact only biodegradable and do not meet the standards of ASTM D6400 or D6868.

Purchasing Compostable Products

Businesses and consumers who are looking to purchase compostable products and packaging should look for products that are certified by the BPI or another 3rd party certifier, such as OK Compost or Cedar Grove.
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