Biodegradable Plastic

Definitions & Terms

TERMMEANING
Aerobic DigestionDegradation in the presence of air. Composting is a form of aerobic degradation.
Anaerobic digestionDegradation in the absence of air, as occurs in landfills or in purpose built anaerobic digesters. Anaerobic degradation may also be referred to as biomethanation.
ASTMAmerican Society of Testing and Materials
BiodegradableAny organic substance capable of being broken down by micro-organisms in the presence of oxygen (aerobic) to carbon dioxide, water biomass and mineral salts or any other elements that are present (mineralization). Alternatively, any organic substance able to be broken down without the presence of oxygen (anaerobic) to carbon dioxide, methane, water and biomass.
CompostA mixture of various decaying organic substances, such as dead leaves or manure, used for fertilizing soil.
CompostableOrganic matter capable of being broken down by aerobic and anaerobic means to make compost.
Compost – CommercialCompost produced in an industrial scale compost plant, a feature of which is the controlled and sustained elevation of temperature.
Compost – HomeCompost produced in a small scale home composting system which is usually less managed than a commercial facility and thus tends not to achieve sustained elevated temperatures.
DegradableBroadly describes plastics which are designed to break down into smaller particle sizes to a specific extent within a given time and within a specific end environment.
ENEuropean Standards
Environmental claim verification 2Confirmation of the validity of an environmental claim using specific predetermined criteria and procedures with assurance of data reliability.
Environmental impact 2Any change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from an organization’s activities or products.
FlushableSuitable for disposal in the sewage system by flushing down the toilet.
FreshwaterWater that is not salty.
ISO – International StandardsA standard published by the International Organization for Standardization and commencing with ISO ( eg ISO 16929).
Landfill: Dry-tombA landfill that is constructed to restrict contact betweeen waste and air and water.
Landfill: OtherMethod of solid waste disposal, including wet cell landfills, where refuse is burned.
LitterScatter rubbish, not properly disposed of in landfill, recycling, composting or other formal rubbish disposal methods.
Marine WaterSalt water that comes from the sea.
Material Selection InformationInformation available to consumers that describes the qualities and applications of a material and may aid selection of an appropriate material for a particular purpose.
MulchAny pasteurized organic product such as a covering of straw or compost (excluding polymers which do not degrade such as plastics, rubber and coatings) that is suitable for placing on soil surfaces.
Open Air EnvironmentAny environment that is open to the surrounding atmosphere.
OxodegradableA catalyst-based, multi-stage degradable plastic which breaks down first by oxidation and later by bacteria.
Performance StandardA standard that references one or more test standards and stipulates the results required.
PhotodegradableA plastic capable of degradation by ultraviolet radiation degrading the chemical bond or link in the polymer or chemical structure of a plastic.
Plastics RecyclingThe recovery of scrap or waste plastics and reprocessing into useful product.
Plastic to FuelsThe conversion of plastics to fuel sources such as diesel.
PolyestersPolymers with ester groups in their backbone chains. All polyesters degrade eventually, with hydrolysis being the dominant mechanism. Degradation rates range from weeks for aliphatic polyesters (e.g. polyhydroxyalkanaoates) to decades for aromatic polyesters (e.g. PET)
Renewable SourcesSources of raw material from which plastics may be produced which are able to be replaced by new growth.
Self-declared Environmental ClaimsEnvironmental claims that are made, without independent third-party certification, by manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers or anyone else likely to benefit from such a claim.
Septic TankA tank in which solid organic sewage is decomposed and purified by anaerobic bacteria.
Sewage SludgeSludge with active, live degradation microorganisms.
SoilThe portion of the earth’s surface consisting of disintegrated rock and humus.
Starch – Polyester BlendsStarch-based polymers which are blended with high-performance polymers, such as polyesters to achieve the necessary performance properties for different applications.
Test StandardA standard that sets out a method for testing a characteristic of a degradable plastic, but that does not indicate what result is required when performing that test.
Thermo-plastic StarchesThermoplastic starches have a starch (amylose) content greater than 70% and are based on gelatinized vegetable starch and, with the use of specific plasticising solvents, can produce thermoplastic materials with good performance properties and inherent biodegradability.
WastewaterWater that has been used in washing, flushing, manufacturing of sewage
Water SolubleCapable of dissolving in water.

See AS/NZS ISO 14021:2000 for reference.

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