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A label on the safety of biodegradable and compostable materials and packaging


The purpose of the ECOPACK project is to better assess the potentiality of food contact material or plastics for agriculture for valorization as compost by integrating new dimensions related to the direct impact on biodiversity and human health.
Source of funds:
Scopes: Packaging
Lines research: Sustainability


Numbers of industrials acknowledge that biodegradable/compostable packaging will be the future for food-soiled packaging. Currently, at the end of their life cycle these are treated in landfills and incinerators. However, despite the application of the EU standard EN 13432 for biodegradable packaging recoverable through composting, commercial composters are still reluctant to consider food-soiled biodegradable packaging as feedstock for composting, deploring a lack of safety and quality.

Indeed, packaging has become a tool for communication about brands and the tendency is to use larger quantities of pigments, coatings and inks. More recently active packaging has been developed to extend the food shelf-life with chemical agents: organic acids, antimicrobials, fungicides, ethanol or silver ions. Even though the main raw constituent is biodegradable, the impact on the environment of these additional constituents is questionable.

In a similar way, polymers for agriculture that are used as fertilizers (water retention) or mulching films mainly remain in the soils because they are partially degraded/fragmented and not easily collected. For these materials the EU standard EN 13432 for biodegradable label also applies.

However, with regard to EU standard EN 13432, the requested chemical analysis of hazardous substances and the current eco-toxicological testing on living organisms are not sufficient to manage the final environmental risks and particularly those coming from the packaging itself.


The ECOPACK project will perform first applications of eco-innovative practices using a battery of recently developed bioassays and biomarkers. The purpose is to fully assess the potentiality of Food Contact Material (FCM), such as packaging residues, for valorization as compost and to complete the biodegradability standards for plastics used in agricultural soils. This innovative approach to the design and labeling of biodegradable products will go beyond the existing scheme, namely the EN 13432 standard "requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation", by integrating new dimensions related to the direct impact on biodiversity and human health. It will also go further than the environmental criteria of the European Eco-label for soil improvers which should in turn contribute to a better and wider acceptance, at a European level, of such biodegradable products as feedstock for composting. Finally, the new EcoPack® certification will become a major tool for food brand to communicate on a green image and therefore an additional purchasing influencer for organic-minded consumers.


3 years (2010-2013)


- Bio-Tox (Francia).
- CELABOR (Bélgica).
- Institut Pasteur de Lille (Francia).
- PENA Environnement (Francia).
- Organic Products Cluster (Greece).
- ITENE (España).