The Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ) of Canada is now offering certification programmes for compostable products, aiming to bring clarity and independent verification to the packaging industry.

Previously, manufacturers could self-declare their products as ‘compostable,’ leading to consumer confusion and potentially hindering composting efforts. 

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The new BNQ programmes address this by providing a framework for certifying products that meet international standards for biodegradation and suitability for industrial composting facilities.

The new BNQ programmes are based on two key standards: International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 17088:2021 for compostable plastics and ISO 18606:2013 for packaging and organic recycling. 

These standards define the requirements for products to break down completely in composting environments, leaving no harmful residues.

“The several uses of the terms ‘compostable’ and ‘biodegradable’ on packagings often are the results of self-claims that are not verified by a third party; as a result, it definitely contributed to confuse consumers,” said Isabelle Landry, principal director at BNQ.   

“When obtaining a certification by the BNQ, the manufacturers can declare that their products will be composted in appropriate industrial installations.”

The Compost Council of Canada (CCC) applauded the BNQ’s initiative. 

“The time should be over when claims for compostability can be made without third-party verification,” said Susan Antler, executive director at the CCC. 

“And for those who are making compostable claims within the Canadian marketplace, these claims must directly tie in with the compost quality standards regulated by Canadian governments – both federal and provincial/territorial – and managed through the processing dynamics of industrial-scale composting facilities across Canada.”

Manufacturers can apply to the BNQ to have their products assessed against the relevant ISO standard. 

An independent laboratory analyses the products for disintegration, biodegradation, impact on plant growth, and presence of regulated metals and toxins. 

The BNQ then reviews these test reports and grants certification to qualifying products.

Certified companies receive a recognisable mark for display on their packaging, signifying third-party verification of their compostability claims.

The BNQ’s new certification programmes offer a clear path for manufacturers of compostable packaging and products to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and consumer transparency.