The biodegradation and disintegration of paper products in the composting environment

Olli Venelampi, Assi Weber, Timo Rönkkö, Merja Itävaara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The compostability of several paper products was determined according to the standards and criteria of the European standardization committee (CEN). The lignin content of the materials seems to be the main reason for the low biodegradability level achieved in the controlled composting test, which is a biodegradability test based on microbial degradation and measurement of carbon dioxide evolution. Mechanically pulped paper, which contains more lignin and more closely resembles natural wood than chemically bleached paper, generated smaller amounts of carbon dioxide. All the chemically bleached papers generated more than 70% of their organic carbon content as CO2, while the mechanically pulped unbleached papers in general generated less than 70%. Paper containing mechanical pulp degrades slower because lignin both interferes the biodegradation of cellulose and becomes incorporated in the humus. The test protocol also defines that, even if the biodegradability of paper products is not tested, their disintegration and effect on compost quality have to be determined. In the present study, we also evaluated a number of disintegration test methods in full-scale composting facilities. According to CEN, the disintegration can be studied either in composter bin-scale test equipment or in full-scale composting facilities. In this study, we only present the data from full-scale composting in which several test methods were used to evaluate the degradation of the samples. The disintegration of the paper products in full-scale composting facilities is highly dependent on the method used. The slowest degradation rate was achieved when the samples were composted in nylon bags.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-209
JournalCompost Science and Utilization
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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