An overview of methods for biodegradability testing of biopolymers and packaging materials

Merja Itävaara, Minna Vikman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


This paper gives an overview of the methods used at the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) for the biodegradability testing of solid polymers and packaging materials. Biodegradability of each polymer included in the packaging material should be separately tested. Aquatic aerobic and anaerobic tests and, in specific cases, enzymatic tests are used for screening purposes. The application of aquatic aerobic tests—an automated Sturm test (OECD 301B; ASTM D5209) and a VTT headspace test as well as an anaerobic test (ASTM D5210)—is discussed. Three composting tests and their applications are summarized. These tests are regarded as important because they can be used to simulate the biodegradability under real-life conditions. Several tests are needed to determine the fate of the polymer under real conditions and to study its biodegradability in different environments. The time needed for complete biodegradation of polymers in nature is impossible to predict with laboratory tests and should be studied in vivo.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-36
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Polymer Degradation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1996
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • biodegradation
  • composting

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