The Difference Between ‘Biodegradable’ & ‘Compostable’

It's a common misconception that both these words mean the same.

Explore in this Article

  1. What Is Biodegradable?
  2. What Is Compostable?
  3. So How Are They Different?
  4. How To Know If A Product Or Packaging Is Biodegradable Or Compostable?
  5. Choosing Between Compostable And Biodegradable:

It’s a common misconception that biodegradable items are compostable items too. People often get confused, altho the terms biodegradable and compostable have very different meanings. Here, we are about to explore what these two words mean and what the differences are between them. 

What Is Biodegradable?

Biodegradable items disintegrate into the natural environment by microorganisms like bacteria and fungi without any human intervention. Almost everything is biodegradable (including plastic). The process can take from a few days (in the case of vegetable peels) to 500+ years (in the case of plastic).

What Is Compostable?

composting bin
chizhe/envato elements

Compostable items can be recycled for good and turned into nutrient-rich soil or fertilizers through the process of decomposition. That means you can turn your organic waste, glass clippers, vegetable or fruit peels into nature again under certain conditions. A great thing about composting is that some products, with proper management,  can be composted at your home.

So How Are They Different?

After knowing their definitions, it’s pretty understandable why some people would get confused. So here is the difference: all compostable materials are biodegradable, but all biodegradable materials aren’t compostable. Biodegradation is a naturally occurring process, where composting is the recycling of organic waste. 

Another difference is that sometimes biodegradable materials can disappear entirely into the earth, and sometimes they leave behind metal residue. However, compostable materials turn into humus, which is full of nutrients and is excellent for plants. 

How To Know If A Product Or Packaging Is Biodegradable Or Compostable?

There is only one sure way to say if a product or packaging is biodegradable or compostable and that is if the Biodegradable Products Institute [BPI] has tested it. So check for a BPI symbol (leaf and an arrow-shaped tree) or a label marked compostable in the packaging. 

Choosing Between Compostable And Biodegradable:

Choosing between compostable and biodegradable can be a task, as both of them work for the environment. But, biodegradable products only lessen the impact on the environment, whereas compostable products benefit the environment. So if you are trying to do something good for the environment, then we’d say compostable products are a good option. 

Composting a product or buying a compostable product means you are not adding to the landfill. And if you are composting at home, then you can use that organic matter in your garden.

Also, only a few products can be composted at home, and some can only be composted at commercial facilities that regulate environmental conditions for composting. So it is better to find a facility that can handle the waste. 

So that was all about the differences. We hope this article will make it easier for you to choose biodegradable and compostable products consciously. 

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