Glossary

Glossary

B

Bio-waste: Bio-waste is organic waste from natural plant or animal resources. For households, it consists of kitchen waste (vegetable peels and other food scraps) and green garden waste (hedge trimming, grass cuttings, dead leaves, etc.).

Biodegradable: A material is said to be “biodegradable“ if it can be decomposed under the action of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, algae, earthworms, etc.). The result is the formation of water (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2) and/or methane (CH4), and by-products (residues, new biomass) that are not toxic for the environment.
Biodegradation is influenced by the physico-chemical (temperature, humidity, pH) and microbiological parameters (quantity and nature of microorganisms) of the environment in which it occurs. To be truly meaningful, the term “biodegradable“ must therefore be clarified and linked not only to a duration in time, compatible with a human scale, but also to conditions of biodegradation

Biomasse: Renewable resources consisting of agricultural and forestry resources, co-products of agro-industries and organic waste.

Bioplastic: Bioplastics are materials that are either biosourced, biodegradable or both. It is for this reason that the term “bioplastic“ should never stand alone and why it is necessary to specify, each time this word is used, the plastic’s origin (biosourced or not) and end of life (biodegradable or not). Moreover, the French definition, published in the Official Journal of December 22, 2016, reserves the term “bioplastic“ for materials that are both biosourced and biodegradable.

Biopolymers: These are natural polymers derived from renewable resources of plants or animals. They can be directly synthesized by plants or animals such as polysaccharides (starch, cellulose, chitosan, etc.), proteins (collagen, gelatin, casein, etc.) and lignins, or synthesized from biological resources such as vegetable oils (rape, soybean, sunflower, etc.). Other biopolymers, such as PHA, are produced by microorganisms (bacteria) through fermentation from sugars and starch.

Biosourced: Biosourced materials are manufactured, in part or in whole, from renewable biological resources, most often vegetable. The sources of raw materials are very varied. We find everything related to biomass, organic matter, in particular starches, sugars and vegetable oils.

C

Compostable: Literally, anything that can be composted or be involved in a composting (see below).
Today in France, two standards govern the designation “compostable“ for packaging: NF EN 13432 for industrial compostability and NF T51800 for domestic compostability. Plastic packaging that complies with these standards can therefore be recovered organically either by industrial composting (NF EN 13432) or by domestic composting (NF T51800), in the same way as organic waste (food waste, green waste, etc.).

Composting: According to the ADEME definition, composting is an aerobic transformation process (i.e. in the presence of oxygen, unlike methanization which is an anaerobic reaction, i.e. without oxygen) of fermentable materials under controlled conditions. It helps obtain a stabilized fertilizing material, rich in humic compounds, called compost. It is accompanied by the release of heat and carbon dioxide.
It is a process widely used, especially in agricultural environments, because compost helps amend soil by improving its structure and fertility.

Circular economy: For the ADEME, the circular economy is “an economic system of exchange and production that aims to increase the efficiency of resource use and reduce our impact on the environment.“ The aim is to disconnect resource consumption from growth in gross domestic product (GDP) whilst ensuring that environmental impacts are lowered and well-being is enhanced.
The circular economy refers to an economic model whose objective is to produce goods and services in a sustainable way, limiting the consumption and waste of resources (raw materials, water, energy) and the production of waste. It is a question of breaking away from the linear economy model (extracting, manufacturing, consuming, dumping) in favour of a “circular“ economic model where the entire life cycle of products is integrated, from eco-design through to waste management, including consumption, by limiting waste.

M

Methanization: Methanization (or anaerobic digestion) is the natural biological process of degrading organic matter in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic). It occurs naturally in some sediments, marshes, rice paddies, landfills, as well as in the digestive tract of some animals such as termites or ruminants. Some of the organic matter is degraded to methane, and some is used by methanogenic microorganisms for their growth. The decomposition is not complete and leaves the “digestate“ (partly comparable to compost), which requires composting in order to be stabilized.
Methanization is also a technique used in “methanizers“where the process is accelerated and maintained to produce usable methane (biogas). Organic waste can thus provide energy.

O

Oxo-degradable: In recent years, plastics described as “oxo-degradable“, “fragmentable“, “oxo-fragmentable“, or even “biofragmentable“ or “oxo-biodegradable“ have appeared on the market. These are polymers of petrochemical origin containing mineral oxidizing additives that promote their degradation into small pieces (until they become invisible to the naked eye). These plastics can fragment, under certain conditions (light, heat, etc.), but are not biodegradable according to current standards (EN 13432 or NF T51-800). In addition, these additives seem to contain heavy metals whose environmental effects are currently unknown.
These plastics have also been banned by the Energy Transition for Green Growth Act for packaging and bag applications. The new European Single-Use Plastics (SUP) directive, approved by the European Parliament on March 27, 2019, provides for the prohibition of these oxo-degradable plastics, whatever their use.

Organic recycling: Organic recycling (or recovery) refers to all modes of management and recovery of biodegradable waste (food waste, green waste, urban sludge, industrial sludge, waste from the food industry, agricultural waste, etc.). Biodegradable waste can be recycled (or recovered) through two main treatment methods: composting and methanization.

 

P

Polymer: The term polymer refers to a molecule of high molecular weight consisting of a repetitive sequence of a large number of simple molecules called monomers, which may or may not be the same. The number of monomer units constituting the macromolecule is called the degree of polymerization. Polymers are generally polymolecular, i.e. they are composed of blends of molecules of different sizes.
Sugars, starch and proteins are natural polymers synthesized by plants, animals or bacteria; these are called biopolymers. Plastics from the petrochemical industry are also polymers.