Spring is right around the corner, and as the trees and plants around us start to blossom again – nature shows us once more how it has developed the ultimate model for sustainable living: Because all those plants and trees follow the biological cycle, hereby minimizing waste and handling earth’s resources with care. As humans, we can actually learn a lot from this system. At the moment however we mostly produce our materials and products using the take-make-waste principle. So what about taking nature as an example and following the leave-no-trace principle? With our biocircular material innovation traceless® , this is exactly what we always aim to do, as after its use our material can be reintegrated into the biological cycle, for example through composting.
We are excited to announce we officially received the certificate “DIN Tested - Home and Garden Compostable”. The certification confirms our products are safe to compost in a home and garden composting environment, and will break down into nutrients, water and CO2, without leaving any harmful residues – or as we like to put it, without leaving any traces behind!
Establishing credible environmental claims
This certification is an important milestone for us as it is an independent confirmation for our claims about organic recyclabililty and natural composting. We now have external evidence to back-up the three important product advantages of traceless: plastic-free, biobased and home-compostable.
In this blog post, we'll ask our certification expert Hande Saltik about the process, and take a closer look at what the DIN CERTCO home compostability certification entails, why it's important for the environment and what it means for traceless in practice.
Hi Hande, thanks for joining us again! Can you maybe tell us a bit more about the DIN CERTCO Home-Compostability Certification?
DIN CERTCO is a third-party certification organization that tests and certifies products on various characteristics. Their certification “DIN Tested - Home and Garden Compostable” is intended for products that are designed to be composted in a home composting environment, together with food scraps and yard waste. The certification ensures that the product is home compostable and will not harm the environment. The test scheme is based on the standard NFT51-800, and designed to test products in a controlled home composting environment, where the temperature, moisture, and other conditions are typically lower and less consistent than in an industrial composting facility.
The certification process involves a chemical characterization, and testing the product's ability to disintegrate completely and safely in this environment within 6 months. The products are tested on any toxic chemicals which can be harmful to the compost. In addition, as part of the test process, the temperature, O² levels and PH values are monitored to make sure the compost quality is not affected by the product.
What’s the secret magic behind this - why is the traceless® material so easily compostable?
The key for traceless' excellent compostability lies in its natural ingredients: Unlike bioplastics that have been synthetically created, our materials are based on “natural polymers” - those polymers that nature has already produced itself. That's why microorganisms out there already know how to handle them, and can easily digest them. These natural polymers are abundant in plants and other organisms - examples are cellulose, alginate from algae, or the chitin of insects shells. Because these “natural plastics” have many similar properties to synthetic plastics, novel technologies to extract them and use them in materials are emerging now. At traceless, we extract these natural polymers from plant leftovers of agricultural grain processing.
Why did you choose this specific certification? There are more compostability certifications out there right?
There is two main types of compostability certifications – one targeting home-compostability and one targeting industrial compostability, and DIN CERTCO offers both of them. The main difference between them lies in the specific composting conditions under which the products are tested and certified.
Industrial compostability certification is based on the standard EN 13432, and intended for products that are designed to be composted in a larger, industrial-scale composting facility. In these facilities there are typically much higher temperatures around 58°C, more consistent moisture levels, and more controlled conditions to break down organic materials more quickly and efficiently.
As the conditions for the home-compostability certification are stricter, with test temperatures at 25°C, we have decided to obtain this certification to hereby have the highest compostability level that can be achieved at the moment. This in turn means: traceless is also industrially compostable!
Thank you! So now just to understand correctly, compostability actually means a product is biodegradable?
Yes, because composting is a specific way of biodegradation. Biodegradation is a more general term for all natural processes where microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi break down organic substances into simpler components such as carbon dioxide, water, and other natural compounds. This process occurs naturally in many environments, including soil, water, and air.
Composting, on the other hand, is a specific form of biodegradation in which organic materials break down in a controlled and efficient manner. Composting is typically done by combining organic waste materials such as food scraps, yard waste, and certain types of packaging materials in a compost pile or bin, along with the right balance of moisture, oxygen, and carbon. The goal of composting is to produce a nutrient-rich soil amendment that can be used to improve soil health and plant growth. Composting is typically done in aerobic conditions, meaning that oxygen is required for the microorganisms to break down the organic materials effectively.
So, while both biodegradation and composting involve the breakdown of organic materials by microorganisms, composting is a specific form of biodegradation that is designed to produce a useful end product, whereas biodegradation can occur naturally in many different environments and doesn't necessarily have a specific end product.
Biodegradable and biobased often get mixed up - where's the difference, and what's more sustainable?
Well, traceless® materials are both - they are certified biobased (100% biobased carbon content, based on plant leftovers) and now also certified home compostable. But this is not necessarily the case for all “bio” materials - some of them are only biobased, or only biodegradable.
In summary, while biobased materials are sustainable in terms of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, biodegradable materials are beneficial for products that might end in the environment or on a compost, or where organic recycling is the only suitable recycling option. The key is to choose materials that are suitable for the intended process and have been certified by a reputable organization.
Now what does this all mean for the disposal of traceless? Can I just throw it into nature as it will compost anyway?
No! Even though technically it would be possible, as our material is completely safe to animals and nature, and able to biodegrade in a short time-frame – this is not the case for most other materials. By littering products made from traceless®, others around you can be influenced to litter their trash as well… Most other materials however take a long time to degrade, while potentially even releasing toxic chemicals during the process. Therefore, in order to protect wildlife and nature, we kindly ask you to set a good example by disposing of our material in a truly “traceless” way.
Got it! So then what are the best ways to dispose of your material?
The easiest way is to put it on your home or garden compost, where it will be organically recycled, as the certificate has confirmed. So far, we can’t recommend putting it in the “green ton” of the communal biowaste collection, as regulations and infrastructure greatly vary - at least in countries like Germany. And even though novel natural polymer materials like traceless are much better compostable than bioplastics, there is no general permission or separate label so far. But we are working on this, too!
What if I don’t have a home compost - is the disposal in the normal waste less sustainable?
The good news: In terms of environmental footprint, the non-organic waste streams are equally beneficial! If it’s packaging, you can put it in the “yellow” bin, where it can be sorted from the plastic materials with the standard sorting technologies, and won’t affect their recycling. Turning it into material for new products through mechanical recycling is technically possible, due to thermoplastic properties. However, transport and treatment als cause emissions, and as our production technology is so efficient, these might be higher than just producing new material.
This leads us to the last option, which might be a surprise for many of you: Incineration is also a sustainable option! Because we use a plant resource, the incineration emits just the same amount of carbon that the plant has absorbed during its 1-year growth. Which is, by the way, also emitted during composting. This means, it is a closed biospheric carbon loop, and the heat or electricity that is generated is renewable. To sum it up: Through organic recycling, the nutrients are used, and through incineration, the energy is used, both emitting only renewable carbon. No matter which way it goes at its end-of-life, our material will go back in the natural biosphere, and leave no harmful traces.
Learn more about our other certificates
traceless® is certified biobased, with 100% biobased carbon content!
traceless® is certified plastic-free, with zero plastic inside!