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Biodegradable, Compostable, and Degradable: What’s the Difference?

Biodegradable, Compostable, and Degradable: What’s the Difference?

If you’re making the next step towards a zero waste business you’ll be glad to hear there are many alternatives to traditional plastic cups, disposable plates, bowls, and flatware.

But, you will notice that some products are labelled as biodegradable and others as compostable. The difference relates to the types of material, what conditions are needed to for them to deteriorate, how long it takes for them to break down after being thrown away, and the overall environmental impact they make.

Biodegradable and compostable products are great eco-conscious alternatives, but there are differences between the two. There are plenty of eco-friendly options for traditional disposable products, and knowing what they each mean will help you determine the best choice for your business. Let’s take a look at the different types of eco-friendly products to help you make the best choice for your business.

What Is Biodegradable?

Biodegradable refers to a product breaking down into natural elements by organisms like bacteria and fungi. In a way everything is biodegradable, but some things take thousands of years for them to biodegrade. Here are some benefits of biodegradable products:

  • Biodegradable products break down faster than other types of products.
  • They aren’t harmful to the environment, instead, they break down into carbon dioxide, water vapor, and organic material.
  • Usually, they’re made from sustainable materials and organic by-products, such as corn starch or sugarcane.


Biodegradable Products and Landfills

Biodegradable products are an eco-friendly option for people running food and drink business but there is a downside to using them. If biodegradable products are dumped into landfills, they become buried. The bacteria which breaks down these products cannot survive being under all the rubbish because of the lack of oxygen. This means that biodegradable products break down without oxygen, anaerobically, which creates methane which is bad for the environment.

The best way to dispose of biodegradable products is to dispose of them in a commercial compost heap or send them to a recycling plant.

What Is Compostable?

Compostable products break down into natural elements but only when certain conditions are met. Examples of compostable material are corn starch, sugarcane or PLA plastic. There are two main benefits of using compostable products over biodegradable options:

  • They break down much faster than biodegradable products, as quickly as 90 days;
  • they also break down into nutrient-rich products, which is good for the planet.


How to Dispose of Compostable Products

Compostable products need to be thrown away into a compost heap. There are many industrial compost heaps across the country, which are rich in microorganisms and reach high temperatures, which allow products to break down quickly. Alternatively, you could encourage your customers to take home their wares and compost at home. Compostable products do not break down easily in a standard landfil so these products should not be thrown in the trash.

Compostable products should also not be recycled, so it’s important to inform your customers about how to dispose of their waste properly.

If you can’t decide between biodegradable and compostable products, fear not: you don’t have to. We boast a massive selection of biodegradable and compostable items for all your needs. We also offer a plethora of PLA and sugarcane bagasse products that help consumers work toward a zero-waste future.

Our containers and cutlery options are perfect for anyone on the go. If you are an avid coffee or tea drinker, our biodegradable cups, bowls, plates and lids,are a great alternative to traditional petroleum products. Check out all our biodegradable and compostable food containers here.



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