Standard Active Last Updated: May 09, 2018
ASTM D5988-18

Standard Test Method for Determining Aerobic Biodegradation of Plastic Materials in Soil

Significance and Use

5.1 The degree and rate of aerobic biodegradability of a plastic material in the environment determines the extent to which and time period over which plastic materials are mineralized by soil microorganisms. Disposal is becoming a major issue with the increasing use of plastics, and the results of this test method permit an estimation of the degree of biodegradability and the time period over which plastics will remain in an aerobic soil environment. This test method determines the degree of aerobic biodegradation by measuring evolved carbon dioxide as a function of time that the plastic is exposed to soil.

5.2 Soil is an extremely species-rich source of inoculum for evaluation of the biodegradability of plastics in the environment. When maintained appropriately with regard to moisture content and oxygen availability, the biological activity is quite considerable, although lower than other biologically active environments, such as activated sewage-sludge or compost.


1.1 This test method covers determination under laboratory conditions of the degree and rate of aerobic biodegradation of plastic materials, including formulation additives, in contact with soil.

1.2 This test method is designed to measure the biodegradability of plastic materials relative to a reference material in an aerobic environment.

1.3 This test method is designed to be applicable to all plastic materials that are not inhibitory to the bacteria and fungi present in soil.

1.4 Claims of performance shall be limited to the numerical result obtained in the test and not be used for unqualified “biodegradable” claims. Reports shall clearly state the percentage of net gaseous carbon generation for both the test and reference samples at the completion of the test. Results shall not be extrapolated beyond the actual duration of the test.

1.5 The values stated in SI units are to be regarded as the standard.

1.6 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety, health, and environmental practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use. A specific hazard statement is given in Section 8.

1.7 This ASTM test method is equivalent to ISO 17556.

1.8 This international standard was developed in accordance with internationally recognized principles on standardization established in the Decision on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations issued by the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee.

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Book of Standards Volume: 08.03
Developed by Subcommittee: D20.96
Pages: 6
DOI: 10.1520/D5988-18
ICS Code: 13.030.10