Biodegradable vs. Compostable, and the difference between the two.
With the environmental impact of plastic now well-known world wide, many companies are moving towards making packaging either biodegradable or compostable.
While we see these words plastered on items daily, do we actually know what they mean, or understand what they do for the environment? Is one better than the other? Is biodegradable and compostable packaging truly helpful? Let’s take a look at these frequently used buzzwords in the eco-friendly community.
According to explainthatstuff.com, “biodegradable plastics [are] made from traditional petrochemicals, which are engineered to break down more quickly.”
What this means is that when you have packaging that is made from biodegradable plastics, it typically will not leave this Earth without producing some harm. Depending on how it was made, and many being made as traditional plastic with “additives that cause them to decay more rapidly in the presence of light, oxygen, moisture, and heat” still can leave harmful and toxic residues in the soil that they are buried in.
Further to the point, some biodegradable plastic does not break down entirely, just to the naked eye. These micro-plastics are still entering the soil and water systems, regardless if we can see it or not. Furthermore, plastics take quite some time to biodegrade. This, in turn, has negative effects in the environment. Yes, these plastics will break down but it may take years, or decades, and they break down in ways that can still be unfavourable.
From heritagepaper.net, we learn that “compostable materials are similar to biodegradable materials, […] however, compostable materials go one step further by providing the Earth with nutrients once the material has completely broken down.”
This means that these packaging items not only degrade completely, leaving no trace of them behind, but also provide helpful nourishment to the soil it composts into.
One problem however, is that depending on how the compostable packaging was made, it may only be able to be put into an industrial composting facility. pjponline.com teaches us that compostable products sometimes “have to be placed in the right kind of conditions, conditions that are often only found in industrial compost facilities.”
Luckily, many companies (such as the one we at Kindred Hearts source our parcel bags from betterpackaging.co) offer compostable packaging that can be chucked into your home compost bin, and will naturally break down without the need for industrial help.
So, with all this in mind, what does this mean?
It means that we have several options when it comes to doing our shopping, and parcel packaging.
All in all, many companies are making it clear that they care about the environment by producing their products in either biodegradable or compostable packaging, and we can do our part by making sure we are informed about what these buzzwords mean.
Now, are either the better choice? That’s up for you to decide — both biodegradable and compostable items break down, but each break down in different ways. In total, at least there is now plenty of places that are marketing their items as biodegradable or compostable, making it where the items don’t stay in the ecosystem forever and ever.