What is the difference between biodegradable and compostable?

As people find more and more ways to become sustainable and reduce their company’s impact on the planet, two words are cropping up within the food supplement industry: biodegradable and compostable. But what do they mean?

 

What is biodegradable?

If an item is biodegradable, it can be disintegrated by bacteria, fungi or another biological process. Bio means life, degrade means to break down, Bio-degradation is basically just the process of nature taking its course and breaking down materials to their component parts. Plastic will break down into carbon dioxide, water and smaller items.

A lot of things are biodegradable, but it all depends on in which time it biodegrades. Plastics are known to take decades or even centuries to break down naturally, but they will eventually break down. When a packaging supplier offers a biodegradable product, they mean it will break down once it enters landfill. The key, however, is to take note of how long it takes for the product to biodegrade.

The biodegradable packaging market was valued at USD 90.12 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach a value of $126.34 billion by 2025. Rising consumer awareness regarding the environmental impact of packaging products and a willingness to replace packaging materials by alternatives with a lower carbon footprint are the main drivers for the development and the use of these materials.

 

What is Compostable?

When you take organic materials and allow it to decompose, it creates a fertiliser for soil. Composting is a fantastic way of recycling waste so it can eventually be reused as something else.

Within the packaging world, compostable means something different. Typically, when a packaging supplier says their items are compostable, it means that it can be turned into compost if entered a composting facility. Compostable products will not always biodegrade naturally in landfill, they have to be placed in the right conditions that are only found in industrial compost facilities. Compostable products will take much longer to break down if in landfill, especially within an air locked landfill with no oxygen.

Compostable products may be great for the environment; however, it is important to ensure they are disposed of in the right waste management process.