Nowadays more and more products are partly or completely made of “biomaterials”. However, there are no clear international arrangements on the definition of a “biomaterial”. That is why Belgium has drawn up some foundational rules for materials which are biodegradable, compostable or home compostable.
There is quite a lack of clarity on the concept of “biomaterials”. For most consumers this simply means “a material which is good for the environment”. But what actually is it?
Roughly speaking, there are two types of biomaterial: materials which are produced from renewable raw materials and materials which are biodegradable. Some materials combine both features, others don't. None of both visions is the “most environmentally friendly”: each product must be seen through its complete life-cycle.
Royal Decree “Biomaterials”
As there is so much confusion on these concepts, and also false claims (“greenwashing”) arise, the Royal Decree of September 9th, 2008 was drawn up, containing the establishment of product standards for compostable and biodegradable material, known as the RD Biomaterials. In this, specifications are laid down on products which claim to be biodegradable, compostable or home compostable. Claims which give the impression of these features also fall under the rules.
It is important to note that a product may not claim biological degradability or compostability, unless the whole product is biodegradable or compostable. Therefore, if a product does not fully comprise biodegradable or compostable materials, mentioning these features is not allowed.
The specifications for biological degradibility, compostability and home compostability are based on the norm EN 13432. The technical requirements can be found in the attachments of the RD Biomaterials.
More and more biodegradable packaging surfaces. However, this claim is interpreted by many consumers as a permit to dispose of the packaging after usage as street litter. "After all, it disappears automatically” in nature. But some of this packaging can take a long while to fully disappear and in the meantime the pollution is of course visible. This way, well meant efforts may, at the end of the day, cause more negative effects than positive ones.
That is why in the RD Biomaterials a ban on the claim "biodegradable" has been included for packaging. The claims “compostable” and “home compostable" have been permitted all right.