Biodegradation Testing: Challenges & Test Method Selection


Common issues include solubility, volatility and choosing the appropriate method


Formulations and finished products; products likely to be disposed of down the drain or in water systems


Methods for packaging, plastics, and products that would be disposed of in solid waste systems

Test Methods

Cover a range of product types and intended uses. Selection is based on the appropriate fit for purpose that matches the intended use and required regulations

Biodegradability testing measures the complex biochemical process that occurs when microorganisms consume a given type of material. Although complicated, the test results measure relatively simple markers of the biodegradation process.

At present, regulations require claims to be based on Aerobic Biodegradation, which typically measures oxygen consumption, CO2 production and the state of inorganic carbon intermediates.

Material composition and product design can impact and present challenges for the biochemical interaction between the organisms and product, which may result in less than optimal biodegradation.

Demonstration of successful biodegradation can be managed through the selection of the appropriate method and preparation of the samples to fit the requirements of the specific test method.

To begin selecting the appropriate method for testing, it is recommended that there is good understanding of the needs of the customers, what the local or regional regulatory requirements are, and the basic chemical nature of the product.

With dozens of methods, knowing the common challenges associated with biodegradation testing can reduce the time and expense in bringing quality and value-added products to market.

Additional Guidance for Test Method Selection:

Some methods require the use of a microbiological inoculum that may not represent what the product will encounter with actual use and disposal.

The material’s interaction with water can be critical - poor solubility can interfere with the microorganisms ability to consume the base carbon content of the test material.

Real world use – knowing the product’s intended use and likely disposal helps determine which method may be appropriate and which method(s) to avoid.

For more information on biodegradation testing visit or contact our laboratory at 847-483-9940 or