On November 30, 2022, the EU Commission issued a policy framework on Biobased Plastics (BBP) and Biodegradable and Compostable Plastics (BDCP). This policy framework is in conjunction with the European Green Deal’s Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) and addresses sustainability challenges linked to the sourcing, labeling, and use of biobased, biodegradable, and compostable plastics to have genuine environmental benefits beyond reducing fossil fuels. Specifically, this policy framework is a follow-up to the EU’s Plastic Strategy aimed at transforming the design, production, use, and recycling of plastics.
Consumer confusion around the term “biobased” encourages the creation/requirement of clear and trustworthy labels stating the exact measurable biobased content in plastics. This framework specifically calls for further “clarifying the measurement method and labeling of the part of a plastic product that is entirely or partly derived from biomass (the ‘biobased’ content)” as “there is currently no mandatory minimum biobased content nor agreed certification scheme or label for a plastic product to be labeled as biobased.” This policy framework encourages radiocarbon-based methods over mass balance methods that are deemed neither as robust nor as widely used.
The application of voluntary standards by the European Technical Committee for Standardization for biobased products (CEN/TC411) is recommended by this policy framework for a consistent approach to measuring biobased content in bioplastics and offering comprehensive business-to-business and business-to-consumer communication.
Source: European Commission
After a nationwide ban on plastic shopping bags in 2011, which excluded produce bags, EU Directive 2015/720 has been adopted in Italy. Aimed at reducing the consumption of plastic carrier bags, the adoption of the directive means that all disposable produce bags distributed in Italy will have to be compostable and contain a biobased carbon percentage that will progressively increase. The minimum biobased content starting from 40% in 2018 will be raised to 50% in 2020 and will reach 60% in 2021.
Bioplastic bag manufacturers are required to have the biobased percentage of their products certified according to UNI CEN/TS 16640: % biobased carbon as a fraction of total carbon (now called EN 16640:2017). The law also provides for information campaigns aimed at raising consumer awareness of the environmental footprint of plastic bags and “dispute the misperception that plastic is a harmless and cheap material, helping to reduce the usage of plastic bags”.
Source: Article 9-bis of Decree 91/2017
Under Criteria 4 Renewable Ingredients Requirements, products using the term “bio-based” or “bio-lubricant” needs to have at least 25% bio-based carbon content in the final product. To demonstrate compliance, the ecolabel applicant is required to submit the final product test report in accordance with EN 16807, ASTM D6866, DIN CEN/TS 16137 (SPEC 91236), EN 16640 or EN 16785-1.
The new criteria and related assessment and verification requirements are valid until December 31, 2024.
Source: Official Journal of the European Union (November 8, 2018)
The French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy published Decree 2016-379 in March 2016 as part of the new French law on Energy Transition and Green Growth aiming to reduce the use of disposable plastic bags. This decree entered into force in July 2016 and banned single-use plastic carrier bags thinner than 50 microns. From January 2017, the only authorized bags are those with a biobased content of at least 30%. This minimum biobased content will increase to 40% in 2018, 50% in 2020, and 60% in 2025 as specified in the Decree. Carbon-14 testing is the analytical method required to determine the biobased content.
Bioplastic bag manufacturers are required to have the biobased content of their products certified according to the ISO 16620-2 or CEN/TS 16640 standards. The Decree also states that the biobased content is “the percentage, expressed as a fraction of total carbon, of biobased materials contained in the bags, using the calculation method specified in the international standard in force for determining the biobased carbon content of plastics”.
Source: Legifrance (March 31, 2016)
In July 2019, Austria’s National Council voted to ban single-use plastic bags starting in January 2020. This effort is aligned with the EU Packaging Directive, the EU Plastics Strategy and the Single-Use Plastics Directive (2019/904/EU).
The ban does not apply to:
– Very light plastic carrier bags (wall thickness < 0.015 mm), which are made from predominantly renewable raw materials and are suitable for home composting.
– Reusable plastic carrier bags (made of plastic fabric or materials containing plastic) with sewn connections and sewn handles.
The European Union is proposing a regulation updating its legislative framework for packaging and packaging waste following the Parliament’s recommendation to do so in its resolution on the new circular economy plan passed on February 10, 2021. The goals of the proposed regulation are to reduce plastic waste generation by 2030 through prevention, reduction, recycling and re-use, promote a circular economy for packaging, and promote the use of recycled content in packaging.
This PPWD proposal covers the entire lifespan of packaging, is announced in the European Green Deal, and Article 114 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union is its legal basis. The proposal calls on the European Commission to establish a methodology for calculating and verifying the percentage of recycled content recovered from post-consumer plastic waste by the end of 2026 and to amend the minimum percentage of recycled content recovered from post-consumer plastic waste. The proposal relies on the provisions in Decision 768/2008/EC for assessing the conformity of packaging, including the use of reliable, accurate and reproducible methods for tests, measurements and calculations of recycled content.
The proposal also calls on the Commission to implement acts establishing labels and labeling requirements for plastic packaging, including labels describing a unit of plastic packaging’s biobased content, material composition, reusability, and recycled content. The Commission’s review of the PPWD proposal has resulted in their further proposition of a comprehensive regulation setting sustainability requirements for packaging, including biobased content, recyclability, compostability and biodegradability.
Source: European Commission
The EU Taxonomy Regulation Act (2020/852) for sustainable economic activities was created in July 2020 to have a common language and clear definition of ‘sustainable’ when classifying investments. Sustainable investments in projects and activities in the EU is vital in order to meet the objectives in the EU Green Deal. In June 2023, the draft taxonomy regulation was approved in principle by the European Commission, while formal adoption in all the official languages of the EU will take place later on.
The first Delegated Act on climate change mitigation and adaptation (the ‘climate taxonomy’) was adopted on 4 June 2021 and established that a biobased plastic qualifies as contributing substantially to climate change mitigation if the following is met:
While no specific test standards are listed in the taxonomy, final biobased products and plastics based on Carbon-14 content measurement could be labeled as ‘biobased’ through the taxonomy, according to a white paper on biobased PLA from TotalEnergies Corbion.
Sources: Regulation (EU) 2020/852 of the European Parliament
2023. Planting the Future with PLA. TotalEnergies Corbion
The U.S. launched a Plastics Pact in 2020, being the first plastics pact in North America with Canada to follow in 2021. The U.S. Plastics Pact is part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Initiative Plastic Pact Network and is led by the Recycling Partnership and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The primary purpose of the Pact is to reduce plastic waste in the environment and generate a circular economy.
One of the four key goals that Pact members strive to achieve is ensuring that the average proportion of recycled content or responsibly-sourced biobased content in plastic packaging reaches 30% by 2025. ASTM D6866 is an accepted standard to verify biobased content claims in plastic packaging.
Source: U.S. Plastics Pact
For more information about these programs, please read: Tax Credits for Renewable Chemical Producers in the US
There are several organizations in Europe that promote the use of biobased products, such as bioplastics, as part of their global climate change initiatives.
The Bureau de Normalisation des Plastiques et de la Plasturgie (BNPP) aims to promote the use of bioplastics and bring together experts in the field. BNPP also has a certification program for all bioplastic products in France.
The European Bioplastics is an association representing industrial manufacturers, processors, and users of bioplastics and biodegradable polymers and their derivative products. The association aims to promote the growth and use of renewable raw materials in products and applications and supports innovations leading to lower environmental impact of durable and non-durable plastic products, among others.
Page Last Updated: September 2023