The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), North America’s leading certifier of compostable products and packaging, today clarified that it has already put measures in place to restrict and then eliminate the use of fluorinated chemicals in the products and packaging it certifies for compostability.
Due to growing concerns around fluorinated chemicals, often referred to as perfluorinated or polyfluorinated alkyl substance (PFAS) as a class of chemicals, BPI engaged with composters, municipalities, and environmental groups, hiring an expert advisor in 2017 to develop a path forward. In November 2017, the BPI membership and Board of Directors voted to approve a 100 parts per million (ppm) total fluorine limit in its certification to address the entire class of chemicals, followed by a statement of no intentionally added fluorinated chemicals. BPI certified compostable products and packaging not meeting the 100 ppm total fluorine requirement must be phased out of the marketplace by the end of 2019.
“For the 20 years that BPI has been certifying compostable products, the efficacy of our program has been driven by how well those products perform in the compost environments they are accepted into,” said Rhodes Yepsen, Executive Director of BPI. “Once composters and municipalities began telling us their concerns about fluorinated chemicals in foodservice packaging, we participated in studies and learned that it persists during the composting process, and is likely bioavailable to fruit and vegetable crops grown in the finished compost, so we knew we had to be proactive and update our certification requirements.” Fluorinated chemicals like PFAS are used across a number of industries, and are an effective, FDA-approved “grease-proofing” barrier used on some paper and molded pulp food packaging. Most BPI certified products already do not contain fluorinated chemicals, instead achieving water and grease barriers through the use of compostable biopolymers like PLA, PBAT, PBS, or PHA, as well as compostable waxes.
BPI’s overarching goal is the scalable diversion of organic waste to composting by verifying that products and packaging will successfully break down in professionally managed composting facilities, without harming the quality of finished compost. The certification program is built on a third party system of independent labs that test to ASTM standard specifications, and a robust technical review by an accredited body. The ASTM standards include multiple requirements before a product can be claimed to be compostable, including biodegradation testing, disintegration testing, heavy metals limits, and plant toxicity testing. Currently BPI certifies products and packaging from over 200 companies around the world, and maintains a public database that is keyword searchable for over 9,000 certified items.
“This new restriction on fluorinated chemicals in compostable packaging is the first of its kind, and will be challenging for our staff and member companies selling compostable products, but it is clearly the right thing to do, and something we are all committed to,” said Yepsen. “Compostable products and packaging play a pivotal role in the zero-waste movement, and as more communities across the Americas set up food waste collection programs, we are working to ensure that BPI’s certification will continue to be a trusted benchmark for compostability.