ANN ARBOR, MICH. (Jan. 13, 10:55 a.m. ET) — Certifying that products, resins and packaging can use the compostable logo from the Biodegradable Products Institute will now by done by NSF International under an agreement reached by the two organizations.
“This elevates the program to a stature and recognition which it hadn't reached before,” said Steve Mojo, executive director of BPI, in a Jan. 12 telephone interview. “Aligning ourselves with a globally recognized third-party certification organization will benefit the program and add credibility.”
Mojo said the number of applications to use the logo or to be re-certified to use the logo “had outstripped” BPI's ability to handle that work. Up until now, BPI had used outside experts to verify that packaging, resins and products met ASTM standards for materials to compost in a municipal or commercial facility and leave no toxic or lingering plastic.
In addition, Mojo said many of the products now being submitted for certification were “much more complex structures” compared to the initial products initially submitted for approval such as compostable bags, injection-molded cutlery and thermoformed plates and cups.
“Examining a product or material for certification today is much more complex because they are technologically more sophisticated,” he said.
Since the program began 10 years ago, more than 230 products from some 130 companies have been approved to use the compostable logo, and all of those must be recertified every three years. The number of new applications and recertification applications in 2011 were between 50 and 60, Mojo said.
“We hope to improve the turnaround time of the certification process to about a month,” now that NSF—based based in Ann Arbor, Mich., but with operations in 150 countries—is handling the certification process, said Mojo. The typical time frame for certification has been 6 to 10 weeks.
“NSF has over 11,000 employees globally,” he said. “We will be able to have local contacts for companies in Asia and Europe.”
According to the BPI website, 136 companies are currently approved to use the compostable logo in four different categories: compostable food service items (51), compostable bags (36), compostable resins (31) and compostable packaging materials such as film, sheet, roll stock and coatings (16). In addition two products—the Frito-Lay SunChips bag and the packaging for the Greenworks line of cleaning products from Clorox Co. have received approval to use the BPI compostable logo.
Actual licensing for use of the compostable logo will emain BPI's responsibility. But NSF International will administer the program and provide all aspects of the certification process from the initial application, product reviews, testing, and verification of compliance to the BPI program requirements.
To pass tASTM tests for compostability, a product must:
• Disintegrate quickly leaving no visible residue that has to be screened out.
• Biodegrade fully or convert rapidly to carbon dioxide, water and biomass.
• Result in compost that can support plant growth.
• Not introduce high levels of regulated metals into the soil
“The BPI compostable logo is widely recognized ... throughout North America as the preferred trademark to assure compostability in commercial facilities,” said Mojo. “We anticipate even more growth in the years ahead. This new partnership with NSF will create a strong foundation to support this anticipated growth.”
The shift of the administration of the certification program will enable BPI to do “a better job of outreach to its members” and to focus on issues and challenges surrounding compostability, Mojo said.
“While product certification is the foundation of BPI's mission, our members look to us to act as a leading advocate for the key issues that face all manufacturers of compostable products in North America,” Mojo said.
Among them: make sure compostable labeling on products is clear labeling, and challenging products that make false biodegradable claims.
“There are a lot of products that claim to be biodegradable when they are not,” Mojo said. Just one example: blends of starch and polypropylene. “Those blends don't meet the specifications for compostability.”
He also said that BPI would continue to work to increase the amount of composting facilities in the U.S. and work more with similar organizations in Europe and Asia “to move us closer to a more unified industry.”
“We will also use new media to improve the visibility of compostability,” said Mojo. “We will use Twitter to our benefit and we are going to create a Facebook page.”