Poster update: Biodegradable Polymers in Various Environments According to Established Standards and Certification Schemes

The biodegradation of materials is a complex process that depends mainly on the environmental conditions in which the materials end up after their use. Additionally, only a handful of polymers will be able to biodegrade in different environments.

Specific standards and certificates have been developed in the last years to give a frame to declare if a product is biodegradable or not. Test methods have therefore been created and specific conditions to fulfil have been established for the biodegradability in different environments.

The updated version of the poster depicts which commercially available polymers (incl. cellulose) actually biodegrade in which environment in accordance with these standards and certification schemes. An overview of the important standards and certificates in the various environments is presented as well as important test conditions.

Poster: Biodegradable polymers in various environments
Poster: Biodegradable polymers in various environments

What is biodegradability? It is the ability of a material to be completely broken down in carbon dioxide, microbial biomass, water and mineral salts under aerobic conditions and carbon dioxide, methane, microbial biomass, water and mineral salts under anaerobic conditions. No plastic residues are left behind once full biodegradation has been reached.
The focus of the poster is to show the polymers which are rapidly biodegraded in the labelled environments, within the time frame of the corresponding standards or certificates. But the poster gives also a small description on slower biodegrading polymers.

Some biopolymers, such as PBS or PLA in soil and also lignin/wood for virtually all environments, also biodegrade, but (much) more slowly. Full biodegradation can take several years to decades to be achieved. In addition, for some applications with a use phase in a certain environment (e.g. geotextiles), too rapid biodegradation is not desired, as their function should first be given for a few years. However, for these cases no standards exist so far.

The poster has been developed by the nova-Institute together with a number of leading experts from the OWS (Belgium), Hydra Marine Science (Italy/ Germany), IKT Stuttgart (Germany) and in cooperation with DIN CERTCO and TÜV Austria. The poster is freely available on in PNG format and in PDF format.


nova-Institut GmbH


DIN CERTCO Gesellschaft für Konformitätsbewertung
Hydra Marine Sciences GmbH
IKT Stuttgart
nova-Institut GmbH
Organic Waste Systems (OWS)