Label Tech is committed to the evolving needs of our customers and as a business understands the importance of having as eco-friendly an offering as possible in order to benefit the environment and allow our customers to do the same. It is important when looking at environmentally friendly and sustainable packaging, that companies do not overlook their labels. By using eco-friendly biodegradable labels, businesses can help to minimise their impact upon the environment. Discuss your requirements with our expert staff, however, if you are unsure about the type of labels you need or if you would like samples of our Biodegradable Labels, please phone us on +353 (0)1 842 1700 and a member of our friendly sales team will be more than happy to advise you.

Biodegradable vs Compostable Labels: What's The Difference?

Our Sustainable Range of labels at Label Tech focuses on being environmentally friendly and we include "biodegradable" and "compostable" materials in our range of products. It can be difficult to grasp the difference between the two, so we have “broken down” exactly what these terms mean and what the real difference is between them.

What Does Biodegradable Mean?

Biodegradable simply refers to the ability of a material to break down and return to nature. For packaging products or materials to qualify as biodegradable, they must completely break down and decompose into natural elements within a short time after disposal - typically six to nine months. The ability to biodegrade within landfills helps to reduce the build-up of waste for a safer, cleaner and greener environment. Materials that are biodegradable include untreated papers, corrugated cardboards and even some PET plastics. Most plastics are not biodegradable unless stated - meaning they cannot break down easily after disposal and can remain on the planet as waste for up to 400 years.

What Does Compostable Mean?

Compostable materials are similar to biodegradable materials as they are both intended to return to the earth safely. The difference being compostable materials will go one step further by decomposing and providing nutrients to the earth once the material has completely broken down. These materials can be added to compost piles, which are designated sites with specific conditions dependent on wind, sunlight, drainage and other factors. While biodegradable materials are designed to break down naturally within landfills, compostable materials require special composting conditions. Label Tech supply a full range of EN 13432 certified Compostable Labels. - Contact: bgrehan@labeltech.ie for more information.

What does EN 13432 mean?

Following the development of the EU Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC), an EU harmonized standard for compostable and biodegradable packaging - EN 13432 – “Packaging: requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation”- was introduced in 2000. This means that packaging meeting certain compostable criteria (listed below) can become certified. Only if a material passes every ‘compostable’ test requirement is it proven to be ‘compostable’.

Summary of BS EN 13432: ‘Compostable’ criteria

Key tests and Pass / Fail criteria are:


• Disintegration – the packaging sample is mixed with organic waste and maintained under test scale composting conditions for 12 weeks after which time no more than 10 % of material fragments are allowed be larger than 2 mm.
• Biodegradability - a measure of the actual metabolic, microbial conversion, under composting conditions, of the packaging sample into water, carbon dioxide and new cell biomass. Within a maximum of 6 months, biodegradation of the test sample must generate an amount of carbon dioxide that is at least 90 % as much as the carbon dioxide given off from the control / reference material.
• Absence of any negative effect on the composting process.
• Low levels of heavy metals (Potentially Toxic Elements) and no adverse effect of the quality of compost produced. Upper limits, in mg/kg of dry sample, are: zinc 150, copper 50, nickel 25, cadmium 0.5, lead 50, mercury 0.5, chromium 50, molybdenum 1, selenium 0.75, arsenic 5 and fluoride 100.
• The composted packaging material must not have adverse effect on the bulk density, pH, salinity (electrical conductivity), volatile solids, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, total magnesium, total potassium and ammonium nitrogen characteristics of the compost.


Each of these tests is undertaken according to internationally agreed methods of test, as specified in BS EN 13432. Independent laboratory test results are then compared with the strict pass / fail limits set in the standard. Only if a material passes every ‘compostable’ test requirement is it proven to be ‘compostable’.

Independent certification scheme

For many standards, including BS EN 13432, independent certification bodies offer product assessment and certification services. In the case of compostable packaging, upon receipt of an application a certification body would review the nature and ingredients of the packaging sample and ensure it is sent to an appropriate laboratory for the correct tests to be carried out. When received, the certification body would then check whether the laboratory test results report on the packaging sample proves that it has BS EN 13432’s ‘compostable’ criteria. If it has, a unique packaging product certification number and certificate is awarded, and it may carry the scheme’s certification mark (logo) ‘compostable’.