Compostable Vs. Biodegradable





While both terms represent the breakdown of matter, the misunderstandings bred by their similarities tend to cause a lot of problems when it comes to proper disposal. While “compostable” and “biodegradable” are often used incorrectly and interchangeably, they are quite different and it’s time we, as conscious consumers and zero waste advocates, learned the difference. 


What is Biodegradable? 


Biodegradable means that a substance will breakdown naturally. There are diverse environments for biodegradation of materials, such as soil, water, marine environment, digester plants, household composting units, and industrial composting facilities. The tricky part about biodegradable materials is that there is no time limit.  A product can be considered biodegradable if it will break down in two weeks, two months, two years or twenty years. So, when you buy a product that is biodegradable, it is important to know what conditions are best for the product to biodegrade sustainably. 


What is Compostable?  


Compostable materials will break down completely into organic material and become compost. Compost is broken down materials, typically in the form of food scraps, yard waste, paper, or cardboard that can be repurposed and used as a soil fertilizer. When something is composted, it does not leave anything behind. Composting is typically done through aerobic biodegradation, meaning oxygen is present. When your items break down aerobically, they will not release methane. Instead, composted material can go back into the earth as natural soil fertilizer. 


Any product can be biodegradable, but what really matters is the time frame in which a material is biodegraded and in which environment. Thus, compostable restricts the term fixing both aspects and deals with other important aspects such as material characteristics, disintegration degree, and quality of the resulting compost. 

Then it is important to remark that all compostable materials are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable materials are compostable. 


So, when you buy something that says, “biodegradable”, make sure you really understand what that means. Can your item be composted to turn back to soil, or will it end up in a landfill eventually producing greenhouse gasses? 



At The Ecofairy, our goal is to help you build a more sustainable life by offering you a line of reusable products. We offer products that last and that will help you reduce the amount of plastic you use.   


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