With the growing movement to reduce plastic waste, biodegradable and compostable packaging have become popular alternatives. Most people think they are the same thing, but there is a big difference between them. Let’s talk about what they mean and which one is right for your business. In this guide, we'll cover the facts about biodegradable and compostable packaging to help you make an informed decision.
What are biodegradable materials?
Biodegradable materials are technically materials that can be broken down by naturally occurring microorganisms. However, plastics can also be “biodegradable” because they eventually break down into small pieces over hundreds of years. It is important to realise that biodegradable plastics are still single-use plastics, and they remain in the environment for an extremely long time, after which time they degrade.
What are compostable materials?
Compostable materials are made using renewable ingredients and can break down into organic matter if composted correctly in a home compost bin or in a commercial composting facility. Compostable items, if composted properly, can turn into nutrient rich biomass that can be used as fertiliser.
What is the significant difference between biodegradable and compostable materials?
As the world is moving towards sustainable materials, key words like “biodegradable” and “eco-friendly” are thrown around, and often used incorrectly. Products labeled as biodegradable are usually made from oxo biodegradable plastics. Oxo biodegradable materials often have metal added to it so when heat is applied, it doesn’t truly disintegrate- it breaks down into smaller components called microplastics. These are terrible for the environment as they can’t be cleaned up easily and cause organism poisoning. Compostable material, on the other hand, breaks down into natural substances, given the right environment. It can be converted into compost, which in turn makes better soil and leads to the sustainable production of more crops.
How home compostable and biodegradable packaging are different?
Biodegradable materials are designed to decompose over a long period of time, usually over decades. These materials are designed to break down into smaller components. Home compostable materials decompose much faster than biodegradable materials and can return vital nutrients to the environment. These materials need specific conditions to break down, such as higher temperatures, regular turning, and enough oxygen and water supply. They can be safely composted with organic food scraps without any additional help from special facilities.
What is the best choice for the planet?
Compostable packaging is ultimately the more environmentally friendly option. This compostable packaging has PBAT which decomposes completely without leaving toxins. PBAT is a synthetic polymer that breaks down completely when home-composted leaving no toxic residues behind. This makes it an excellent alternative to toxic or harmful materials like plastic and other non-biodegradable plastics.