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Issue 02/2015

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Certification OK

Certification OK biodegradable MARINE: Vinçotte offers a new certificate to verify the claims of marine biodegradability: OK biodegradable MARINE. However, given that putting a product on the market as marine biodegradable is an extremely sensitive issue that quickly gets a negative connotation many certification bodies will not risk burning their fingers on this topic. This article looks at the main criticism of marine biodegradable products and explains why Vinçotte nevertheless chose to offer certification for marine biodegradable products. Encourages marine littering? An important criticism is, that if consumers know that a product or packaging is biodegradable in the marine environment, they will litter these products in the sea without reservation, and (who knows) other products too. In other words, instead of reducing the problem this could result in even more marine waste. It is assumed that the bulk of marine debris is disposed directly in the sea. But is that really so? Origins of marine waste The origin of marine debris is endlessly diverse. Moreover, litter can travel long distances, which makes it a challenging task to trace such litter back to its origin. Generally marine debris comes from two sources: land-based and oceanbased. The major land-based sources of marine debris can include waste from dumpsites located along coastal areas or banks of rivers; industrial outfalls; materials manufacturers, processors and transporters [1] The major ocean-based sources of marine debris include shipping (merchant, public transport, pleasure, naval and research vessels), and fishing (vessels, angling and fish farming) activities; undersea exploration; legal and illegal dumping at sea [1] In 1991 the United Nations Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine pollution estimated that up to 80 % of marine pollution comes from the land. In 2001 the National Marine Debris Monitoring Program (NMDMP [1]) was started. This study was conducted between September 2001 and September 2006 and the result indicated that land-based sources of marine debris accounted for 49 %, in comparison to 18 % from ocean based and 33 % nondistinguishable items (plastic bags, straps, and plastic bottles). The fact that marine biodegradable products could actually increase the polluting behaviour at sea is an important concern, however, waste production on the land has much greater impact on marine debris. … and are OK biodegradable MARINE certified products the solution? That the certification of marine biodegradable products solves a problem which is not actually the starting point and is not the question to be answered. The OK biodegradable MARINE certificate provides an answer to such manufacturers or suppliers who offer marine biodegradable products and want to have their claim verified by an independent third party. Being, however, well aware of misunderstandings that can easily arise amongst consumers, the OK biodegradable MARINE certification scheme makes a clear distinction between: 1. Certification of the claim of marine biodegradation and 2. Authorization to publish this certification. Only for a very limited group of products is authorisation given to communicate on the product itself about the OK biodegradable MARINE certificate. It concerns products that are actually used in the marine environment (e. g. fishing line, fishing baits, cull panels, etc.) and therefore their marine biodegradability can actually be of real interest to their consumers. Mentioning the OK biodegradable MARINE logo on all other products that could possibly encourage the customer in marine littering is not allowed. For these products marine biodegradability is an unknown function with an intrinsic added value: if it inadvertently ends up in the marine environment, it will be utilized by microorganisms. Considering the fact that most marine debris is landbased, marine biodegradability is an added value to any product or packaging regardless of where it is consumed. The chance that it eventually ends up at sea will always exist. Any supplier who invests in adding this functionality to his product or packaging should have the opportunity to have the information verified according to international standards. 20 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/15] Vol. 10

Guarantee the claim of biodegradability in the marine environment This verification is not only a reference to harmonize the claim but also offers the supplier the opportunity to distinguish his truly marine biodegradable product from any doubtful claim by his competitors. How certification works: the iceberg example Certification processes are organised rather like an iceberg is structured. The top The top of the iceberg draws the attention, just like the certification logo, however the largest part remains hidden under water. Under water Certificate holders want to have their products able to claim marine biodegradability without having to disclose confidential information about the product details to the public. That is exactly what certification is about: a third independent party that fully evaluates the product without revealing the details to the public, only the final result. The evaluation happens “under the surface”. Applicable standards • ASTM D 7081-05 (Standard Specification for Non-Floating Biodegradable Plastics in the Marine Environment) • ASTM D.6691 (Standard Test Method for Determining Aerobic Biodegradation of Plastic Materials in the Marine Environment by a Defined Microbial Consortium or Natural Sea Water Inoculum) More information / sources [1] National Marine Debris Monitoring Programm (NMDMP): [2] Certification OK biodegradable MARINE: [3] GESAMP: Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection: By: Petra Michiels Contract Manager Vinçotte Vilvoorde, Belgium OK Marine test procedure in a nutshell Before products are certified for biodegradability in the marine environment, they are tested in four different ways. Disintegration During the disintegration test it is verified whether or not the product fragments sufficiently. In concrete terms this means that after a period of 2.5 months (84 days) 90% of the test material is sufficiently fragmented to pass through a sieve of 2 to 2 mm. Biodegradation During the biodegradation it is tested whether the test item actually completely breaks down to the level of CO 2 and H 2 O molecules. 90% of the product must be converted into these molecules within 6 months in the marine environment. This test is performed in an environment of salt water with an inoculum of natural seawater. Ecotoxicity During the ecotoxicity test it is checked that the degraded test material exerts no negative influence on marine aquatic organisms (invertebrates, daphnia, fish, algae or cyanobacteria). Content of heavy metals and fluorine The same limits apply to heavy metals and fluorine as in the European standard for compostability (EN 13432). In addition, there is a further limitation for cobalt. bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/15] Vol. 10 21

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