Synthetic polymers are important to the packaging industry but their use raises aesthetic and environmental concerns, particularly with regard to solid waste accumulation problems and the threat to wildlife. Some concerns are addressed by attention to problems associated with source reduction, incineration, recycling and landfill. Others are addressed by the development of new biodegradable polymers either alone or in blends. Materials used for biodegradable polymers include various forms of starch and products derived from it, biopolyesters and some synthetic polymers. Starch is rapidly metabolised and is an excellent base material for polymer blends or for infill of more environmentally inert polymers where it is metabolised to leave less residual polymer on biodegradation. This should help to improve the environmental impact of waste disposal. A number of standard methods have been developed to estimate the extent of biodegradability of polymers under various conditions and with a variety of organisms. They tend to be used mainly in the countries where they were developed but there is much overlap between the standards of different countries and wide scope for development of consistent and international standards.