In general and simplified terms, a biodegradable material degrades in a manageable period of time through biological and natural processes.
Biodegradable materials are degraded by natural processes in defined periods of time. This can be very attractive for various applications (e.g., plastic bags, etc.). Depending on the field of application, it may be useful to achieve biodegradation in a wide variety of locations and environments, such as in the ocean, on the beach, in the forest, buried in the ground, in a biogas plant, in home compost or in an industrial composting. Accordingly, there are also various test standards and associated certification systems that distinguish, for example, between industrial and domestic composting.
In order to be able to designate a product as completely compostable, it must fulfill all conditions that set the European guideline DIN EN 13432 and / or the US-American standard ASTM D6400. Both specifications require that a biodegradable / compostable product is completely decomposed within a set timeframe and without leaving any environmentally harmful residues.
Environmental conditions determine the degree of disintegration and / or decomposition of biodegradable products:
- Industrial composting: High, controlled-constant temperatures, humidity, microorganisms
- Home composting: Moderate, moderately seasonal varying temperatures, humidity, microorganisms
- Degradability in the soil: low, seasonally fluctuating temperatures, microorganisms
- Degradability in water: moderately fluctuating temperatures, microorganisms