Degradation and Toxicity

Protect the environment

Composting test in lab.

Industrial composting

Industrial composting plants are designed to process large volumes of organic waste. These streams of biowaste can, however, include a fraction of plastic products originating from items such as waste collection bags, coffee capsules, or packaging materials. These need to rapidly degrade without leaving harmful residues to ensure high-quality compost that can be used safely. Normec OWS therefore performs degradation and environmental safety testing for a wide range of products in industrial compost.

Why Normec OWS?

  • Independent laboratory
  • Recognized worldwide
  • Expert in the field


The requirements for industrial compostability testing are well-established and firmly fixed in several standards. Our tests cover all requirements from (inter)national standards, including biodegradation, disintegration, ecotoxicity, heavy metals, and fluorine analyses.

Testing can be done separately, in sequence, or in parallel. The test results can be used for certification purposes, to make public or legal claims, or for internal research purposes.

Lab employee with soil.


Biodegradation testing quantifies the biochemical degradation of the material as it is consumed by microorganisms in the composting installation. The test shows the biochemical conversion of solid or liquid organic carbon to gaseous CO₂.

To ensure that material will not accumulate in nature, 90% carbon to CO₂ conversion at a temperature of 58°C is required in six months. This leaves 10% carbon unaccounted for, which is biomass formed by the biodegradation process, meaning that 90% carbon to CO₂ conversion is proof of complete biodegradation.


We offer biodegradability testing under certification or screening conditions. Certification conditions are required if the results will be used for certification and/or making public claims. Screening conditions are suggested in cases of early research and when results will only be used internally.

Testing is performed according to the ISO 14855 standard, which can be used for all certifications, as well as ASTM D 5338 and/or EN 14046.


Disintegration testing is linked to the physical degradation of the material. Either quantitative or qualitative testing is done to determine how the material breaks down into (much) smaller pieces and as such visually disappears. For certification purposes, 90% disintegration is required in a 12-week test running at a well-defined (high) temperature profile, intended to protect the compost plant operator.

To establish this, we prepare a precise mass balance and calculate the exact percentage of disintegration after sieving and hand-picking the remaining material at the end of the test. Qualitative testing visually shows how a product breaks down and can be used to test the effect of different product thicknesses.


As the disintegration process is strongly affected by the material’s thickness, grammage and/or density, materials and products are certified up to a certain thickness/grammage only. In some cases, therefore, it can be better to test material samples of several different thicknesses first, after which the maximum thickness with the highest chance of success can be selected for the ultimate disintegration test for certification.

Similarly, different formulations can also be screened first. Testing is performed according to ISO 16929 and/or EN 14045.


Ecotoxicity testing evaluates the potential toxic effect of residuals, which are left behind after composting. These can potentially inhibit plant growth or diminish the survival of soil fauna. Plant toxicity testing is a part of all standards on industrial compostability and prescribes the use of two plant species, according to the OECD 208 test method.

Earthworm toxicity testing, however, is only required for AS 4736 certification in Australia in accordance with the OECD 207 test method. Ecotoxicity testing can be performed on different kinds of material, as well as intermediates, final products, inks, adhesives, varnishes, masterbatches, and additives.

Heavy metals & fluorine

The residue that remains after degradation of the product should not have any negative effect on the compost quality. Testing the chemical characteristics of the product enables the heavy metals and fluorine contained to be quantified and compared to the threshold values stipulated in the standards.

Each standard has its own set of heavy metal limits, with EN 13432 and AS 4736 being the most stringent.


Normec OWS performs industrial composting testing according to all international and national standards, including ISO 17088, ISO 18606, EN 14995, EN 13432, ASTM D6400, ASTM D6868, ASTM D8410 and AS 4736.

Normec OWS is recognized by all of the certification bureaus below offering certification for industrially compostable materials and products. Normec OWS can assist in obtaining the necessary data for and provide guidance in preparing the dossier for certification.

Certifications include the following international certifications:

  • Europe: DIN CERTO (Seedling, DIN Geprüft Industrial Compostable, DINPlus) and TÜV AUSTRIA (OK Compost, Seedling)
  • USA: BPI (Compostable)
  • Australia: ABA (Seedling)
  • Japan: JBPA (GreenPla)
  • And any other (national/regional) system around the world

Curious what Normec OWS can do for your company?

Request a quote

All frequently asked questions
in a row

Is Normec OWS ISO 17025 accredited?

Yes, we are recognized by DIN CERTCO in line with ISO 17025. This accreditation covers all test procedures and standards with regard to compostability and biodegradation. Additionally, we are ISO 17025 accredited by BELAC for our compost analyses and also recognized by TÜV Austria. Normec OWS is also ISO 17020 accredited for inspection services and ISO 14001 approved for environmental management. View our recognitions & certificates.

Where is Normec OWS located?

Our main offices are located in Ghent, Belgium. We also have a subsidiary located in Kettering, Ohio to serve the needs of our American customers.

How long does testing take?

Testing duration depends on the specific type of test and the product itself. This can range from a couple of weeks for material characteristics testing, to months or even years for biodegradation testing. As these are microbial processes, we cannot predict the exact duration beforehand.