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National recommendations and environmental sustainability according to Plastic Free Certification: the perspective on compostable bioplastics.

by Giovanni

Reading time 4 minuts


The French Ecological Transition Agency (ADEME), published a report last May entitled "The limits of compostable plastic packaging." In this communication, the institution states that "the choice of compostable plastic packaging is (...) not a solution to the problem of pollution generated by plastics in the environment" and "recommends that residents put compostable plastic packaging in the (conventional plastic) recycling bin rather than in the stream intended for composting" (of organic waste). It then informs that "compostable plastic packaging is separated from the recyclable waste stream and sent with other waste, generally to energy recovery," i.e., to incineration or pyrolysis.[4] 

The reasons given allude to the inability, at the current state of the art, of composting facilities and related regulations administering them, to properly manage this waste.

This warning is to be contextualized in the broader framework of the so-called Agec (Anti-gaspillage pour une économie circulaire) anti-waste law of 2020 with which France transposes the 2019 European Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive. The latter, in fact, includes bioplastics in the definition of plastics, thus inviting member states to apply the identical restrictive measures to plastics of fossil origin and compostable materials of plant origin. [5]

Like France, other European countries have also aligned with this approach, such as Portugal, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, etc., which have abolished bioplastic alternatives along with plastic plates, cups, straws, and containers. Italy, on the other hand, has taken up the issue with some exemptions that allow the use of compostable disposables instead of fossil-based plastics.[1, 2]

The Plastic Free Certification's position

This situation has stimulated an intense international debate on the topic of compostable bioplastics, which understandably causes confusion and disorientation in the definition of environmental sustainability strategies of many responsible realities and stakeholders. In light of this, it is therefore appropriate to specify Plastic Free Certification's position on the matter.

Undoubtedly, the European SUP Directive is an important step forward in addressing the emergency of single-use fossil plastic pollution in Europe by abolishing the marketing of many single-use items with a high environmental impact. However, we believe that a priori discouraging the use of compostable single-use, along with conventional plastic, and consequently curbing the industrial innovation processes that many realities are pursuing, is a short-sighted, anachronistic and counterproductive strategy

Indeed, in many cases, the substitution of single-use items is not possible.

This is true for the vast majority of sanitary products, for much primary and secondary packaging of food and non-food items, for some food storage products, as well as for numerous situations in which sanitary regulations and market contingencies force caterers and event organizers to use single-use products. A few examples: can you imagine reusable food wrap? Or reusable food vacuum bags? Or reusable garbage bags?

compostable bioplastics

That is why the Plastic Free Certification strategy proposes a prioritization of reduction actions that in some cases suggests items made of compostable bioplastics, albeit against the recommendations of some national jurisdictions. Without prejudice to the fact that compliance with the legislative framework in force in the various territories remains an essential prerequisite for organizations wishing to certify, according to our Standard, single-use compostable plastics remain an acceptable and preferable Plastic Free solution compared to the use of single-use plastics of fossil origin, for all cases in which it is not possible to opt for alternatives that eliminate single-use. 

Specifically, organizations that certify on our Plastic Free Standard - Management System, are required to evaluate the least environmentally impactful solutions, and only in cases where it is not possible to implement them, for reasonable and demonstrable reasons, may further types of actions be opted for, in the order set forth below:

  1. Elimination of the item from the production and/or supply chain;
  2. Replacement with a durable article;
  3. Reuse of the article multiple times;
  4. Replacement with a COMPOST HOME certified disposable article;
  5. Replacement with a disposable article certified UNI EN 13432 (COMPOSTABLE);  
  6. Recycling of the article for other purposes.


We present the reasons for this choice in Table 1 below, which compares the characteristics of disposable products made of conventional plastic with those made of compostable materials. The information gathered objectively and unequivocally illustrates the great environmental advantages of compostable materials over their fossil-based counterparts.

compostable bioplastics


Plastic Free Certification believes that the choice of bioplastics, in many cases, represents a viable alternative and an act of responsible consumption, an alternative that, unlike fossil-derived plastics, does not fuel the petroleum industry, does not require countless processing, does not release toxic substances, does not have shamefully low recycling rates and huge degradation times.

It is therefore deemed of strategic and fundamental importance that political and civic institutions incentivize the development of production and disposal systems for these materials in order to promote a complete conversion to compostable of inevitable disposable materials, instead of slowing down this process by preserving the obsolescence of national waste management systems.


  1. L.Brugnara,  “La direttiva sulla plastica monouso e le risposte dei paesi UE”, Osservatorio sui Conti Pubblici Italiani, 1 July 2021. 
  2. L.Copello, G.Haut, F.Mongodin, “Single Use Plastics Directive Implementation Assessment Report”, Sep 2022.  
  3. L. Di Paolo, S. Abbate, E. Celani, D. Di. Battista , G. Candeloro, “Carbon Footprint of Single-Use Plastic Items and Their Substitution”, MDPI, 10 Dec 2022. 
  4. AVIS de l'ADEME: Les limites des emballages en plastique compostables, May 2023. 
  5. “Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts and Policy Options, Global Plastics Outlook”, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 22 Feb 2022. 
  6. Standard UNI EN 13432:2002  "Requirements for packaging recoverable by composting and biodegradation."
  7. “World Oil & Gas Review 2014”, Eni. 
  8. “Bioplastiche compostabili, già superati gli obiettivi di legge per il 2025”, Biorepack, 14. Dec.22. 
  9. “Questions & Answers - Guidance on the application of Single-Use Plastic rules”,  European Commission, 31 May 2021. 
  10. "Scopri perché conviene utilizzare un bicchiere di plastica", Ekoe Società Cooperativa, 2022. 

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