PAS 9017 Requirements of polyolefinic materials

PAS 9017:2020

PAS 9017 Plastics. Biodegradation of polyolefins in an open-air terrestrial environment. Specification

Status : Current   Published : September 2020



What is PAS 9017:2020 about?

Plastic pollution and littering is a huge problem globally, for which to date biodegradability has not been a viable solution. However, that’s now partly changed with the development of innovations that allow polyolefins to degrade in the open air on land. To quickly disseminate such additive technologies across the plastic packaging value chain, a coalition that included industry, government and academic experts has drafted PAS 9017:2020.

This document specifies the requirements of polyolefinic materials enhanced with technology that imparts biodegradability in an open-air terrestrial environment. It also specifies the chemical analysis and the numerical limits required to meet compliance with the PAS at the end of each stage of testing. 

Who is PAS 9017:2020 for?

  • Plastic or plastic technology manufacturers looking to obtain data as to the performance of the biodegradability of an additive technology within a polyolefinic material in an open-air terrestrial environment;
  • Test houses looking to test conformance to the PAS (though note that certification is out of scope and a PAS cannot require the use of independent third-party certification for claims of conformance);
  • Standards agencies, national laboratories or academic research groups which could use the test method described in the PAS as a universal baseline methodology for evaluating the biodegradability of new material discoveries within plastics and polymer production

Why should you use PAS 9017:2020?

This PAS specifies requirements for the biodegradability of polyolefins in an open-air terrestrial environment. It covers:

  • Polyolefin composition targeted at biodegradability
  • Degradation towards biodegradability from weathering, including:
  • Criteria for the level of chemical transformation to be achieved by weathering in a simulated open-air terrestrial environment and appropriate test methods
  • Method of chemical analysis to be used to yield quantifiable measurement of chemical transformation
  • Biodegradation, including criteria for the level of biodegradation to be achieved and appropriate test methods
  • An assessment of terrestrial eco-toxicity from weathering
  • Claims of biodegradability by manufacturers of end-products or by brands using polyolefin-based packaging for industry and end-markets that the additive based end-products conform with the criteria within this PAS

The PAS does not cover:

  • Freshwater, marine, landfill and anaerobic environments of biodegradation
  • The effect of marine pollution, such as bioaccumulation of plastics and its effect on biodiversity
  • Pre-testing to determine at what point biodegradation is triggered
  • A larger concept for the end of life scenarios for plastics and potential recycling pathways
  • Assessment of origin of used polyolefinic material and therefore potential resulting biodegradability
  • Industrial composting, home-composting or related end of life scenarios for polyolefin-based products
  • Compatibility of biodegradable additive-based polyolefin end-products with recycling
  •  The life-cycle assessment analysis of the end-product, its manufacture, its conversion to packaging and end of life scenarios including littering or leakage from waste management streams
  • Claims made by brands or manufacturers to end consumers about polyolefinic end products

NOTE: Claims related to the end products by brands or manufacturers should be made according to ISO 14021.


PAS 9017:2020 contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 on ensuring sustainable consumption and production, and Goal 15 on the protection and restoration of terrestrial ecosystems


PAS 9017 FAQ

1. What does this standard seek to do?

As set out in the scope, the PAS standard intends to specify the requirements for the biodegradability of polyolefins enhanced with technology that imparts biodegradability in an open-air terrestrial environment. The protocols for testing include those that ensure no hazardous substances are present. It is intended to be used by plastic or plastic technology manufacturers, and test houses when measuring the biodegradability of polyolefin plastic.

2. Is the PAS designed for a specific technology?

No, all standards are technology agnostic. This PAS will be used for any polyolefinic material to demonstrate its ability to fully biodegrade under specified conditions.

If required, due to its pass/fail criteria on proof of full biological decomposition, the PAS could be used as a method to demonstrate that a technology would not fall under any proposed bans contemplated by Directive (EU) 2019/904.

3. Is PAS 9017 a standard for oxo-degradable plastics?

 No. Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council* states that oxo-degradable plastic means “plastic materials that include additives which, through oxidation, lead to the fragmentation of the plastic material into microfragments or to chemical decomposition.”

 PAS 9017 takes an outcomes-based approach and includes a set of pass/fail criteria to determine that polyolefinic materials enhanced with technology that imparts biodegradability have been fully proven to have achieved biological decomposition to carbon dioxide, biomass and water (not chemical decomposition, as in the EU definition) under soil conditions and at ambient temperatures. Using the approach set out in the PAS, materials have to prove that they do not break down into microfragments, or ‘microplastics’.

 The full suite of experience of the PAS steering group was utilised to understand what would be the physical and chemical changes necessary in order to achieve a proven biological consumption of the carbon in the material.

 *Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment (Text with EEA relevance)

4. Are the test methods relatable to real world conditions?

Yes. The PAS steering group reviewed data showing real outdoor weathering performance relative to the stated test specifications as part of their due diligence on setting the testing procedures. This data was part of the recent publication seen in the Society of Chemistry and Industry “C&I” magazine ( 

5. Will this PAS standard encourage people to litter plastic?

 No. The act of littering itself is illegal alongside being a complex behavioural issue and no single standard will be able to control how a member of the public acts.

 The aim of PAS 9017 is to provide plastic manufacturers with the means to obtain data on the performance of the biodegradability process of polyolefinic material and deliver testing laboratories with a standardized protocol for evaluation. Claims made by manufacturers to consumers about polyolefinic products are outside of the scope of PAS 9017. Such claims should be made according to ISO 14021, which is referenced in PAS 9017.

6. If a plastic meets with the biodegradability criteria in PAS 9017, can it still be recycled?

 PAS 9017 is designed to work alongside and complement the guidelines for recycling from Plastic Recycling Europe and the US-based Association of Plastics Recyclers, but the onus remains on the plastic manufacturers to evidence if and how they can meet these requirements.

7. How was PAS 9017 developed?

As with all standards, the principle of consensus was fundamental to its development. Unique to PAS standards is the 7-step development process which was followed in the development of PAS 9017, under the governance of PAS 0: 2012.

When BSI was approached about the need for a standard relating to biodegradation of plastics in the open-air environment, it conducted research which identified that there was a standardization gap before work on the scope of the PAS began.

A steering group made up of key stakeholders, including representatives from the plastics industry, academia and government, reviewed the first draft of PAS 9017. A second draft was then subject to public consultation and engagement with stakeholders beyond the steering group. Feedback from the public consultation and stakeholder engagement was considered by the steering group and the final draft was developed. Once consensus was reached between the group members, the final PAS standard was published.

8. Does this PAS have a legal status?

No. PAS standards are voluntary, meaning that there is no obligation to apply it or comply with it, unless, exceptionally, its application is directly demanded by regulatory instruments. It is a tool devised to help define best practice, particularly in areas of emerging innovation. In itself, a PAS standard has no particular legal status although it might be used as a component of, or the basis of, an agreement that does (e.g. a contract).

9. What happens if BSI receives comments on a PAS once it’s published?

BSI welcomes comments on all published standards. When we receive comments of a technical nature on a published PAS, that were not discussed and resolved during the development of the draft, we reconvene the original steering group to consider those comments. The standard remains current and in effect during this discussion. If the steering group advises that the PAS should change in response to new information, BSI consider the need for an amendment or revision of the standard. If an amendment or revision is agreed, then the standard remains current and in effect until a new version is published. All PASs are reviewed every two years to ensure they remain up-to-date whether or not BSI has received any comments post-publication.

Standard NumberPAS 9017:2020
TitlePAS 9017 Plastics. Biodegradation of polyolefins in an open-air terrestrial environment. Specification
Publication Date30 September 2020
Normative References(Required to achieve compliance to this standard)ASTM D2565-16, ASTM D6474-20, BS EN ISO 4892-1, BS ISO 16014-4, BS EN ISO 4892-2, ASTM D4329-13, BS EN ISO 4892-3, BS EN ISO 17556, ASTM D5988-18
Informative References(Provided for Information)BS ISO 13885-1, ASTM D882-18, BS EN ISO 291, BS EN ISO 14021, BS EN 16785-1, ASTM D6400-19, BS EN ISO 527-3, BS EN 16640, BS ISO 15063, PD CEN/ISO TR 21960:2020, BS ISO 15064, BS ISO 20368, BS EN 13432, ASTM D883-20a, BS ISO 14055-1:2017, BS EN ISO 472:2013+A1:2018, ISO 8604:1988, BS EN 17228:2019
DescriptorsBiodegradability, Plastics, Plastics and rubber technology, Plastic packaging materials, Soil testing
ISBN978 0 539 13097 3
File Size7.863 MB

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