PACKPEDIA – The Encyclopedia of Packaging by UP

What is composting?

Composting is a technique by which the natural process of decomposition that any organic substance (even plastic) encounters is controlled, accelerated and improved.

Compostable means a product, packaging or associated component that allows it to biodegrade, generating a relatively homogeneous and stable humus like substance (ISO 14021).

There are 2 types of compost: home & industrial.

Home compost

Origin: kitchen & garden waste (no cooked food, no animal origin)

  1. Starting condition: a container in a given place in the open air (not too exposed to the sun, nor to the cold) with the ground ensuring drainage of excessive humidity.
  2. Process: inserting small pieces of compostable material. The ideal container ensures a suitable areation. The decomposition starts.
  3. Result:
    – 2-4 months, fresh compost (fertilizer for vegetable garden or trees);
    – 5-7 months, steady compost (fertilizer for garden);
    – 10-12 months, ripe compost (fertilizer for vase plants or garden reseeding).

Industrial compost

Origin: municipal bio-waste

  1. Starting condition: preparation, waste selection & mechanical separation, keeping only biodegradable material.
  2. Process:
    – bio-oxidation, 
    the bacteria increase the temperature triggering biological processes of decomposition and sanitization;
    – maturation
    , thanks to fungus, lower temperatures, production of humus.
  3. Result: before being marketed the compost is analyzed for compliance with legal requirements.

A product is industrially compostable if:

  1. The percentage of biodegradation of the material must be at least 90% within six months in the presence of an aerobic environment (presence of oxygen)*.
  2. The material under examination is biodegraded together with organic waste for 3 months. At the end the compost must be at least 90% composed of fragments smaller than 2 mm*.
  3. Concentration [mg / kg] of heavy metals into the material is low.
  4. The material must not have negative effects on the composting process.

*1. Standard method EN 14046 – ISO 14855
2. Standard EN 14045 method.


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