Compostability: How long do the tests take?

Tests carried out to determine whether a packaging or product is suitable for composting simulate a biological degradation process. Their duration is therefore not susceptible to change and it is for this reason that they are defined by current standards. Manufacturers seeking certification for compostable packaging may find this time requirement surprising. The challenge is therefore to correctly estimate the time required from the start of the tests to obtaining certification.
When should the tests be started? How much time should be allowed to complete them? Check out the details below.

Growing plants

First of all, you need to know that the duration depends on the targeted standard and certification (compostable at home or in an industrial environment). 
●    In an industrial environment the composting process is faster because the temperature of the compost is much higher. Standard NF EN 13432 states that the duration of the tests must be from a minimum of 6 to a maximum of 11 months
●    In household compost, the materials degrade more slowly. Standard NF T51-800 defines a period of a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 20 months

We generally observe biodegradation of materials in 2 to 3 months and therefore a total compostability time of 8 to 11 months, depending on the chosen environment (industrial or domestic respectively). The actual duration will, however, depend on the material and your product.

In order to better understand these times, we remind you here of the test stages and give an indication of their duration: 
a.    The first step is chemical characterisation, which takes about 1 month
b.    Next, biodegradation (a minimum of 6 to a maximum of 12 months) and disintegration (3 or 6 months) tests must be carried out. These two tests can be carried out simultaneously. Their durations are not added together. 
c.    The last test is the ecotoxicity test, for which approximately 1 month should be allowed.

If your product meets the compostability requirements, you can apply for certification from a third party (optional procedure). Your planning should take the duration of this certification procedure into account.

Conclusion: Compostability tests take time. So remember to plan ahead by including the duration of such tests in your projects to create packaging and products certified as compostable.
 

The test stages