Bookmark and Share

Standardization News Search
Tech News
Proposed Methodology Pegs Biobased Content of Products

Federal purchasers have presidential orders to buy renewable products. U.S. Public Law 106-224 and related legislation encourages the purchase of products with biobased content such as bioplastics, hydraulic fluids, and hundreds of bulk items.

A gray area exists because federal buyers and manufacturers don’t use the same methods when reporting the content of biobased products.

Material specialists working with ASTM Subcommittee D20.96 on Environmentally Degradable Plastics have drafted two standards that will enable manufacturers and buyers to identify and validate biobased content. “This standard activity is in direct response to a request from our federal government,” says Katharine E. Morgan, general manager, ASTM Technical Committee Support.

Specialists developing the standards have backgrounds in biology, clinical chemistry, and engineering, representing industry, academia, and government. The subcommittee, which is part of ASTM D20 on Plastics, welcomes additional participation as it reviews the draft standards. To participate, contact Morgan.

Proposed Verification Standard

Standard Test Methods to Determine the Biobased Content of Natural Range Materials via Radiocarbon (14 C/12C) Analysis Using Low Level Liquid Scintillation Counting (LSC) or (14 C/12C) Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) Coupled with Light Stable Carbon Isotope Analysis via Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) (13 C/12C) or Equivalent Methods

The proposed standard suggests analytical-measurement procedures and instrumentation to evaluate and authenticate the amount of biobased material in products. Research chemist Donna Klinedinst, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory, Gaithersburg, Md.; and senior research technologist Andrew Matosky, Eastman Chemical Company, Kingsport, Tenn., drafted the proposed standard.

“Determining the amount of radiocarbon within a given product gives you a direct measure of the percentage of biobased material incorporated through the manufacturing process,” says Klinedinst. “This measurement provides a means by which manufacturers can demonstrate compliance with the Public Law.”

“The method gives the buyers of biobased products a way to discriminate between old and new carbon, i.e., petroleum and coal vs. biobased,” says Matosky, who supervises the Biological Testing Labs for Eastman’s Global Analytical Service.

The title of the proposed standard may be technical, Matosky says, but the science behind it is easy to understand.

“Carbon isotopes degrade very slowly,” he says. “Indeed, carbon 14 takes over 5700 years to decrease by half. So any material made out of biological material in the last 100 years would have almost all of the original carbon 14 while a product made out of coal or oil, which was formed millions of years ago, will have almost no Carbon-14 isotope left to count. Counting carbon isotopes is also how we date many other materials as well. Thus, we are providing a way for the industry to measure how much of a product is made from the biobased or ‘new’ carbon; which in turn will be used to identify products to be encouraged by purchasing decisions.”

To learn more about the methodology, contact Donna Klinedinst, NIST, Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory, Gaithersburg, Md., (phone: 301/975-3927) or Andrew Matosky, Eastman Chemical Company, Kingsport, Tenn. (phone: 423/224-9241).

Proposed Identification Standard

Standard for the Identification and Determination of Biobased Content in Materials and Products

Chemical engineer Henn Kilkson, Ph.D., drafted the proposed identification standard with biologist Carl Muska, Ph.D., manager, Safety, Health and Environment, duPont Biobased Materials, Wilmington, Del.

A retired duPont fellow, Kilkson describes the standard’s far-reaching benefits. “This standard will have far-reaching benefits because of the keen interest in purchasing biobased materials as a means of reducing consumption of nonrenewable resources and decreasing environmental pollution,” he says.

The proposed standard will help manufacturers to uniformly describe the total consumption of renewable resources (such as agricultural and forestry products) and nonrenewable resources (such as oil, coal, and natural gas) during the manufacture of a given product. Buyers who follow the standard can access uniform information on resource consumption, including process energy, when considering the environmental impact of a product.

“There is a need in the industry for a common vocabulary, and a process and methods to identify and validate the bio-based content of materials and products,” says Muska. “ASTM is in a unique position to help fill this need.”

“The proposed standard was generated in response to requests from governmental agencies such as USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture], DOE [U.S. Department of Energy], and DoD [U.S. Department of Defense] for guidelines on identification of biobased materials,” says Kilkson. “These requests were, in turn, prompted by Presidential Orders directing the U.S. government purchasing agencies to prefer biobased materials and renewable resources in order to reduce the environmental impact of products purchased by the U.S. government.”

Kilkson refers to Executive Orders 13101, 13123 and 13134, the recently passed Public Law 106-224, Biomass Research and Development Act of 2000, and HR 2646, Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. ( and

To learn more about the proposed identification standard, contact Henn Kilkson, Ph.D., Wilmington, Del. (phone: 302/475-7387), or Carl Muska, Ph.D., Safety, Health and Environment, duPont Biobased Materials, Wilmington, Del. (phone: 302/892-7559).

Subcommittee D20.96 is part of ASTM Committee D20 on Plastics. Committee D20 meets Nov. 3-6 in Miami Beach. For meeting or membership details, contact Kathie Morgan, general manager, Technical Committee Support, ASTM International (phone: 610/832-9721). //

Copyright 2002, ASTM