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European Bio-based Content Certification Scheme

Spearheaded by the Dutch Standards Institute (NEN), a new bio-based content certification scheme based on the European standard EN 16785-1 was launched in 2016. After successfully obtaining a certificate, companies can use the scheme’s bio-based logo on the packaging and display the bio-based content of their products on the label. Certified products feature on a register that is a publicly available online database so that data on bio-based content is accessible to businesses and consumers. The European scheme aims to promote biobased products and boost the industry as a whole.

In the framework of this certification scheme, bio-based carbon testing is required using the standardized analytical method described in CEN/TS 16640:2014: Biobased Products – Determination of the biobased carbon content of products using the radiocarbon method.

Introducing the EN 16785-1 Standard

The EN 16785-1 standard for measuring bio-based content with radiocarbon and elemental analysis was a product of two European 7th Framework Programme projects: Knowledge Based Bio-based Products’ Pre-Standardization (KBBPPS) and OpenBio. Beta Analytic, the leading laboratory for bio-based carbon testing worldwide, participated in both projects as advisory partner. The EN 16785-1 method can be applied to raw materials, chemicals and intermediate, semi-finished or finished products.

EN 16785-1 defines “bio-based” to mean “derived from biomass.” A bio-based product is one that is partially or wholly comprised of materials derived from biomass. The standard method references CEN/TS 16640 (soon to be upgraded to an EN standard) for measuring bio-based carbon content using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS), as offered by Beta Analytic.

Hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen are also assessed as part of EN 16785-1 but since there is no analytical procedure to determine the bio-based content of these elements, the standard prescribes obtaining a statement from the manufacturer on biomass content, the values of which are to be validated by the combined results of the radiocarbon and the elemental analysis. Beta Analytic does not offer elemental analysis at this time.

Participation in the Bio-based Content Certification Scheme

The first step for a product manufacturer wishing to apply to the scheme is to contract a certification body in charge of administering the certificates, for example Vinçotte in Belgium, a recognized testing laboratory such as Beta Analytic and an approved lab for elemental analysis. Once the test results are received and evaluated, a decision is made by the certification body whether to grant the certificate to the manufacturer. If the response is positive, the manufacturer can use the Bio-based content certification logo as well as the percentage of “bio-based content” for that product, as defined by the EN 16785-1 standard.