Is Compostable Better Than Biodegradable? What Is The Difference?
In our journey towards a plastic-free and sustainable lifestyle, it’s essential to understand the differences between bioplastics, biodegradable, and compostable materials. This blog post will provide you with valuable insights into these terms, their environmental impact, and how to make informed choices for a greener future.
Bioplastics – Not All Are Created Equal
Bioplastics are derived from renewable resources such as plant starch, cellulose, or other bio-based polymers. They can be more sustainable than traditional petroleum-based plastics but come in two main types:
- Biodegradable bioplastics: Designed to break down through the action of living organisms like bacteria or fungi, these materials return to the environment as non-toxic components. Examples include polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), and some starch-based plastics.
- Non-biodegradable bioplastics: Made from renewable sources, these materials do not readily break down and can be as durable and resistant to degradation as traditional plastics. Examples include bio-based polyethylene (bio-PE) and bio-based polyethylene terephthalate (bio-PET).
Compostable vs Biodegradable – What’s the Difference?
Biodegradable materials break down naturally through the action of living organisms. However, the term can be somewhat ambiguous as it doesn’t specify the rate or conditions under which the material will decompose.
Compostable materials are a subset of biodegradable materials that meet specific standards for decomposition under certain conditions, such as industrial or home composting. Compostable products turn into nutrient-rich compost, which can be used to fertilize plants.
What is the difference between home compostable and industrial compostable?
Home compostable and industrial compostable materials are both types of compostable materials that break down into nutrient-rich compost under specific conditions. However, the main difference between the two lies in the decomposition conditions and the required certifications or standards.
Home compostable materials are designed to break down in a home composting system, which typically involves lower temperatures and varying levels of moisture, oxygen, and microorganism activity compared to industrial composting facilities. Home compostable products must meet specific standards, such as the Australian Standard AS 5810-2010 or the European Standard EN 13432, which outline criteria for biodegradation, disintegration, and eco-toxicity under home composting conditions. Since home composting systems can vary significantly, the decomposition rate of home compostable materials may be slower or less consistent than those in industrial composting facilities.
Industrial compostable materials are designed to break down in industrial or commercial composting facilities, which have controlled conditions like higher temperatures, optimal moisture levels, and aeration systems that promote faster and more efficient decomposition. These materials must meet different standards, such as the Australian Standard AS 4736-2006 or the European Standard EN 13432, which specify criteria for biodegradation, disintegration, and eco-toxicity under industrial composting conditions. Industrial compostable materials generally break down more rapidly and consistently than home compostable materials due to the controlled environment.
In summary, the main difference between home compostable and industrial compostable materials is the decomposition conditions they are designed for and the standards they must meet. Home compostable materials break down in home composting systems, while industrial compostable materials require controlled conditions in industrial or commercial composting facilities.
The Impact of Bioplastics and Biodegradable Materials on Waterways, Oceans, and Landfills
In waterways and oceans, biodegradable materials may break down more slowly due to factors like lower temperatures and limited sunlight. As a result, they can persist in the environment and contribute to marine pollution. Non-biodegradable bioplastics behave similarly to traditional plastics, posing a threat to marine ecosystems and wildlife.
In landfills, both biodegradable and non-biodegradable bioplastics may not decompose as intended due to anaerobic conditions, potentially contributing to pollution and methane emissions.
Making Informed Choices for a Sustainable Future
To minimize the environmental impact of bioplastics and biodegradable materials, consider the following tips:
- Always check for proper certifications, such as compostability standards, to ensure that you’re making a truly eco-friendly choice.
- Dispose of biodegradable and compostable materials according to local regulations and guidelines to prevent them from ending up in landfills or waterways.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever possible to minimize overall waste generation.
- Share your waste through the Sharewaste program so the resources can be renewed.
Conclusion: Are Compostable and Biodegradable the Same Thing?
Understanding the differences between bioplastics, biodegradable, and compostable materials is crucial for making informed choices in our quest for sustainable living. By staying informed and adopting responsible waste management practices, we can collectively work towards a greener and cleaner future.
Learn more about how to reduce your waste with these zero-waste alternatives.