Biodegradable and Compostable, many people don’t understand the differences between the two and this can cause confusion when it comes to figuring out the difference.
What is Biodegradable?
Biodegradable means that a product can break down without oxygen and turn into carbon dioxide, water and biomass within a reasonable amount of time but it may take centuries (e.g. plastics). Items like paper and cardboard boxes can also be classified as biodegradable products, even though they will take much longer to break down to a microscopic level.
Usually are made from plastics and other chemicals, and it is not compostable. It will contaminate organic bins and usually ends up in landfills. It will degrade in landfills, breaks down into micro plastics and leaves toxic residue.
Biodegradable plastic, for example, does not fully decompose in a landfill because the necessary oxygen to decompose a product is too low in the landfill. This plastic isn’t recyclable, either and can even degrade the quality of plastic if it’s added to the recycling. To make matters worse, your backyard compost doesn’t get hot enough to decompose the plastic. Unless your city has a composting facility for these plastics, your biodegradable cup for example isn’t a very sustainable option.
Although both terms yield favorable connotations ‘biodegradable’ products aren’t necessarily safe for the environment and this is crucial when discussing plastic pollution which lingers around for centuries.
What is compostable ?
Compostable, on the other hand, means that a product can break down into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds and biomass in small pieces in about 90 days. This rate is similar to items you might see in a backyard compost, such as leaves and paper. Compost works because millions of tiny microbes consume the waste and transform the organic material into compost. Compost has many beneficial uses including fertilizing and improving soil health, and plus, it doesn’t leave toxic residue behind because it’s already organic.
WHY IS KNOWING THE DIFFERENCE SO IMPORTANT?
While biodegradable items refer to just any material which breaks down and decomposes in the environment, compostable goods are specifically organic matter which breaks down, the end product having many beneficial uses which include fertilizing and improving soil health. Most importantly compostable items don’t leave toxic residue behind because it’s already organic. Unlike compostable, certain biodegradable products can take several years to break down and in some cases even leave toxic waste behind.