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Why Biodegradable Food Packaging is Growing in Popularity

As environmental concerns grow, sustainability is becoming increasingly important to consumers, making it crucial for businesses to implement sustainable practices across a product’s life cycle. This can prove difficult in the food packaging industry, especially as it pertains to the end-of-life phase for products. Plastic is a common choice due to its ability to withstand moisture and keep food safe from bacteria; however, these plastics can take hundreds of years to break down. This leads to overflowing landfills and harmful chemicals entering the environment or polluting the ocean. 

Luckily, creating biodegradable food packaging provides an alternative. Over the years, these food packaging solutions have become increasingly popular, and the designs and materials have improved to serve all of your food packaging needs.

Benefits of Biodegradable Food Packaging

On top of its sustainability, biodegradable food packaging provides various benefits to humans, animals, and environments alike. 

Waste Reduction

There is no need to worry about overflowing landfills and harmful chemicals seeping into the environment when you use biodegradable food packaging. These packaging options show promise to break down in three to six months, thus reducing the amount of waste that is left in landfills for hundreds of years. Plus, the manufacturing process for these biodegradable food packaging products can be more efficient than non-biodegradable plastic options. 


The materials used to create biodegradable food packaging are likely non-toxic, posing a lesser risk to users and the environment. The non-toxic nature of this packaging prevents the leaching of harmful chemicals into the environment where they are disposed, protecting the flora and fauna in the ecosystem. With this being said, biodegradable food packaging can be made from many materials, including gelatin, starch, chitosan, cellulose, PHAs, and polylactic acid. 

Better Brand Image

Most consumers are more conscientious of the environmental impact their purchases have, leading them to choose brands and products that are sustainable. This includes choosing brands that are actively focused on taking a sustainable approach to their production and packaging. Biodegradable food packaging is a great way to show that your brand cares about the environment and that you are making the necessary strides to help solve the problem. 

How to Know if Your Food Packaging is Truly Biodegradable

There is really only one way to know if your food packaging is truly biodegradable and that is through biodegradability testing and monitoring.

If you do decide to use plastics for your food packaging, there are some tests that can be done to determine the biodegradability of the material. Since most food-grade plastics used in packaging do not end up in wastewater treatment plants, certain tests such as the OECD 301 may not be the most suitable method for assessing packaging plastics. However, the Microplastics Restriction in the EU uses OECD 301 along with other tests to evaluate polymers in a wide variety of applications.  

There are various biodegradability tests that are suitable for plastics that mimic the common environments plastic waste ends up in, such as landfills and composting. However, since about 80% of plastics go to landfills, these tests are very common. 

Landfill Environments

The environment of a landfill is anaerobic, so there is no oxygen present. This makes biodegradability testing a bit different in regards to the test measurement. Specialty tests include: 

ASTM D5511

This is currently one of the most in-demand biodegradability tests for plastics, and an equivalent to ISO 15985. During this test, no oxygen is present and the process does not convert all of the organic carbon to carbon dioxide (CO2). During this process, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) are generated during this test and measured to determine how much degradation has occurred. It can take place either at mesophilic (37ºC) or thermophilic (52ºC) temperatures.

ISO 15985

This test simulates anaerobic conditions similar to those found in landfills. The test sample is exposed to methanogenic inoculum from anaerobic conditions. Decomposition throughout this test takes place for 15 days at 52ºC. It is intended to measure the biodegradability of polymers. 

Composting Environments

While a majority of plastics end up in landfills, a percentage is composted. There are a few tests that simulate industrial composting environments, which tend to be high temperature and high pressure. These tests are done at 58ºC and the biodegradability of the product or material is determined by how much carbon dioxide (CO2) is generated. These composting tests may lead to certain ecolabels, such as the BPI Compostable Label.   

Standard Specifications

Usually, to obtain an ecolabel, you will need to test according to a standard specification, which is made up of several tests. Here are a few examples: 

  • ASTM D6400: This is a standard specification that outlines the requirements for compostable plastics — specifically biodegradation, disintegration, and compostability of plastic materials. 
  • ISO 18606: This test establishes the requirements needed for packaging that is suitable for organic recycling. 
  • ISO 17088: This procedure specifies requirements for the identification and labeling of plastics and plastic products that can be composted. 
  • ASTM D6868: Tests paper with a polymer coating for biodegradability in municipal or industrial composting facilities.


These specifications are broken up into sections: 

Biodegradation Tests

  • ASTM D5338: This test is for compostable plastics and determines the degree and rate of aerobic biodegradation by measuring carbon dioxide (CO2) evolution. 
  • ASTM D6868: Tests paper with a polymer coating for its biodegradability in municipal or industrial composting facilities. 
  • ISO14855: Tests for the ultimate aerobic biodegradability of plastic materials or others under composting conditions. 

Disintegration Tests

  • ISO16929: This testing procedure assesses the extent of disintegration of plastic materials in aerobic composting conditions. 
  • ISO 20200: This tests for the degree of disintegration of plastics in a laboratory-scale composting environment. 

Environmental Safety

  • OECD 208: This test evaluates the effects on seedling growth when plastics are applied to the soil. 

Do You Want to Test Your Food Packaging’s Biodegradability? Aropha is Here to Help

At Aropha, we are here to provide you with all of your biodegradability testing needs. Whether you are new to sustainable packaging, or have been doing it for decades, we offer the testing capabilities you need to determine how biodegradable your food packaging is. 

In addition to testing in our automated lab, we have also created ArophaAI. We developed this machine learning model to give you biodegradation results in minutes rather than months. If you know your exact chemical structures, you can skip the biodegradability testing and predict the biodegradability of your product today with our free trial of ArophaAI. 

If you are ready to get started on your biodegradability testing, contact our team today.