Companies today are more socially responsible and aware of their environmental impact than ever before. This is exciting and promising, but for consumers it can also be confusing. The definitions are sometimes vague and there’s no way of knowing how much of an impact you’re having on the environment.
To help clarify, this blog post will define and weigh the pros and cons of biodegradable and compostable products.
What does biodegradable mean?
Although compostable and biodegradable are often used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. Biodegradable means that a product can break down without oxygen and turn into carbon dioxide, water and biomass within a reasonable amount of time.
Because the definition of biodegradable does not have a time limit placed on it, consumers can get easily confused, and companies can hide behind a vague transparency. It is assumed, however, that a biodegradable product takes less time to break down than the maximum of 1000 years that it can take to break down some plastics (without recycling them, of course).
What does compostable mean?
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—plus, it doesn’t leave toxic residue behind because it’s already organic.