Biodegradable vs Compostable

Hands up if you totally thought biodegradable and compostable was, well, essentially the same thing… they kind of are, but they also have some key differentiators on how each impact the earth. 

We look at the difference between the two and what they actually mean. 

 

What does biodegradable mean? 

We see the term biodegradable popping up all the time; often on products such as shampoos, hand soaps, and some plastic bags. It refers to the ability of a product to break down and return to nature safely. For a product to qualify as biodegradable, it must completely breakdown, and decompose into the earth within a year. This reduces the build-up of long-term waste found in landfills. 

Products that fit this category include paper bags or boxes and some plastic bags. It’s always important to read the labels and understand exactly what the product materials are. 

 

What does compostable mean?

 Although having many similar properties to biodegradable products, compostable products are made of plant materials such as corn starch and sugar cane. They break down during the composting process into non-toxic waste within 90-days. Because they break down into natural elements they cause no harm to the environment and actually provide nutrients. Compostable products need to be in the right environment to break down effectively within the right time frame. 

To qualify as compostable over biodegradable the product must also provide the earth with nutrients once decomposed, and meet the Australian Standard for compostability AS4736. 

 

Ultimately, they are both designed to return to the earth safely and with minimal impact. While biodegradable items will help reduce the impact on landfills, compostable products will take it one step further by allowing nutrients back into the earth. 

Even better, if you make your own compost, try composting your packaging at home!