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Biodegradable vs. Compostable: What's the Difference?

June 13, 2022

Biodegradable vs. Compostable: What's the Difference?

Did you know: Anything that’s compostable is biodegradable. But, not everything that’s biodegradable is compostable. Here’s why:

“Biodegradable” refers to the general ability for organic matter to decompose thanks to microorganisms like bacteria and microbes. This is nature’s recycling.

Food scraps, yard debris, manure, natural textiles, paper, and even bioplastics are biodegradable. Bioplastics function just like traditional plastic, but they’re made from plants such as bamboo, corn, or sugarcane rather than fossil fuels and they break down when exposed to microorganisms under just the right temps and moisture conditions.

Compostable materials are just a specific type of biodegradable materials. Yup, that’s right! “Compostable” (like biodegradable) also refers to the ability for organic matter to be broken down by microorganisms but at a faster rate (about 90 days, actually) and resulting in a nutrient-rich soil-conditioning end product we call compost. So, what’s compostable IS biodegradable, but with added benefits.

Keep in mind: HOW you dispose of these materials matters A LOT to the breakdown process. Landfills “seal off” biodegradable materials’ access to oxygen necessary for aerobic decomposition, resulting in a REALLY long decay time and creating methane gas in the process. No good. And no to recycling either. The best way to dispose of biodegradable products should be through industrial composting, anaerobic digesters, or home composting.

List of biodegradable material benefits compared to compostable material benefits
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