Woods End Laboratories, Inc.

Woods End Laboratories, Inc.


Compostability is a loose term considered by experts to be an instance or subset of biodegradability. “Compostability” as presently defined in Europe and the USA involves establishing conditions that represent “modern” composting. One artifact that has emerged involves a distinction of “industrial” vs “other composting” and this is based purely on temperature of the process. In reality, composting to completion involves a period of time – generally less than a year, is associated with some measure of heat rise and fall, and is validated by at least 40% reduction-in-organic matter (“ROM”).

Biodegradability is a more precise term referring to the conversion of organic matter to carbon dioxide, water and biomass. Products are biodegradable which for all purposes decay in moist soil under ambient temperature conditions,- they may also be defined as products that decay in water or in marine environments. Half-life kinetics are generally determined based on decay curves in soil. Attempts to define half-life kinetics in compost environments are confounded by background changes in compost mass simultaneous with the material being decomposed. Since some carbon is always retained in microbial biomass, – and is therefore technically unconverted – there is general agreement that there is no such thing as “100% biodegraded”- in fact, in only rare instances does degradation to CO2 and H2O exceed 60% of total carbon.

Real-time testing for compostability requires a complex set of conditons and skills to match them. It requires established the particular composting conditions; it necessitates sourcing ingredients and mixing them in sufficient ratios and proportions to result in a suitable compost mix- no two mixes behave the same – then to manage and conduct the composting process artificailly in pilot-scale setups and finally to have the laboratory skills to suitably test the content and products with the implied scientific skill for interpretation and statistical evaluation of the overall result. These broad skills are clearly possessed by Woods End Laboratories.

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