Compostable vs Biodegradable - What's the difference?

Compostable vs Biodegradable - What's the difference?

Mar 22, 2024Roxie Hsu

Compostable and biodegradable are terms often used interchangeably, but they have distinct differences that are important to understand.

Compostable materials undergo a specific decomposition process where they break down into nutrient-rich soil, known as compost, under specific conditions.

On the other hand, biodegradable materials break down into simpler substances through the action of microorganisms over time, but they may not necessarily result in the production of compost.

Compostable material breaks down to be soil

Compostable materials are advantageous because they contribute to the production of compost, which can be used to enrich soil and support plant growth. These materials require specific conditions, such as heat, moisture, and oxygen, to break down effectively.

Compostable products typically degrade more rapidly than biodegradable ones and leave behind minimal or no residue.

Biodegradable materials, while also capable of breaking down over time, do not necessarily result in the production of compost. They can degrade in various environments, including landfills, oceans, and soil, through microbial action.

However, the timeframe and conditions required for complete breakdown may vary depending on the material and environment. Biodegradable products may degrade at a slower rate compared to compostable materials and may leave behind residue or by-products.

In terms of environmental impact, compostable materials are often considered superior to biodegradable ones. Composting not only reduces the volume of waste sent to landfills but also produces valuable compost that can be used to improve soil health and fertility.

Composting helps to close the loop in the circular economy by returning organic matter back to the earth in a beneficial way.

Compostable pouch is ideal for food packaging

Furthermore, compostable materials are preferred for certain applications, such as food packaging and agricultural products, where the end-of-life disposal method is critical.

For example, compostable food packaging can be safely composted along with food waste, reducing the need for traditional plastic packaging and minimizing contamination in recycling streams.

While biodegradable materials still offer environmental benefits compared to traditional plastics, their effectiveness depends on various factors, including the specific material composition, environmental conditions, and disposal method.

Some biodegradable materials may require industrial composting facilities or extended periods to degrade fully, limiting their practicality and scalability compared to compostable alternatives.

A solution for reducing waste

Overall, compostable materials offer a more sustainable solution for reducing waste and minimizing environmental impact. By choosing compostable options over biodegradable ones, individuals and businesses can contribute to a more circular economy and support healthier ecosystems for future generations.

As the demand for environmentally friendly products continues to grow, investing in compostable solutions is a crucial step towards building a more sustainable future.

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