PLA composting is a topic that is regularly in the public eye when the biodegradable polymers end of life is mentioned.
Indeed, PLA is a material entirely biobased produced from sugar cane or corn starch but also industrially compostable. When put into different temperature and humidity conditions (and put in presence of micro-organisms), this polymer will break down into water, CO2 and byproducts non-toxic for the environment.
Since their introduction on the market about 20 years ago, there is still no specific stream for the collect of biodegradable materials in order to industrially compost them in France (as in numerous European countries).
Except for specific projects, PLA is thus not composted but incinerated with the other household wastes when collected.
A successful experimentation!
Since September 2018, Citeo and Les Alchimistes, a Parisian company specialized in biowaste valorisation, are experimenting the PLA composting in Paris through an innovative industrial electomechanical process. This one has been used to check “the degradation of PLA bottles (25g) without label, ink, adhesive or cap and have been mixed up to 5% with biowaste in the composter, during 8 weeks.”
The first results have been encouraging. Indeed, after being analysed, the compost is compliant with the standard NFU 44-051, corresponding to the organic amendments. PLA, thus, doesn’t disturb the quality of the compost.
Even if the process has to be improved, notably by extending the maturation period of the compost by two weeks as well as adding a grinding step of the PLA bottles at the entrance of the composter, this test shows the possibility to collect and recycle PLA with biowaste.
PLA composting in France: towards incentive legislation?
The French Senate positions itself in support of compostable plastics. Indeed, during the study of the circular economy law, two amendments have been proposed by the senators in order to favour the developments of domestically or industrially compostable materials.
They wish that these plastics are collected and sorted with the biowaste in order to be methanised or composted. They proposed the development of this stream to be partially financed by the eco-contribution part paid by the biobased and biodegradable plastics producers.
The second amendment aims to reduce the eco-contribution of packaging that are less polluting based on “the ability to be domestically or industrially compostable” as well as “the lack of ecotoxicity” of the materials. This follows the 100% malus applied to the bottles made by compostable plastics.
PLA composting could thus take off and finally bring an optimized end of life to this material.
About us: NaturePlast is a french company based in Normandy (IFS-14), specialized in bioplastics. With more than 10 years of experience in this field, the company has the most extensive portfolio of raw materials and biobased and/or biodegradable compounds in Europe. With its daughter company BiopolyNov, they provide support to industrialists from the origin to the industrialisation of their innovative project. Thanks to their R&D expertise acquired during the years, NaturePlast and BiopolyNov are renowned major player in the development and production of formulations for clients and collaborative projects.