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The Difference Between Biodegradable and Compostable

Published: 2021-01-27T21:10:02+0000 Author: Abby Helgeson

Want to gain more knowledge regarding biodegradability and compostability? You're at the right place! Keep scrolling to learn how to tell the difference between biodegradable and compostable products.

What Makes a Product Biodegradable?

Biodegradable refers to a product breaking down into natural elements, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. These types of products break down into carbon dioxide, water vapor, and organic material, which isn't harmful to the environment. An important role in biodegradation is played by microorganisms, which are present in the environment and fed mostly by organic waste.  Biodegradable objects can be much more than plants, as most people assume. It can be papers, boxes, bags, and other items that have all been created with the ability to slowly break down until they’re able to be consumed on a microscopic level. However, because biodegradable products in landfills can create harmful methane, it is better to dispose of them in a commercial compost heap or to send them to a recycling plant.

Biodegradable Favorites

Dash Jute Tote Bag

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​Laminated Jute Tote Bag

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Eco II Pen

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Eco Friendly White Barrel

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What Makes a Product Compostable?

Compostable means that a product is capable of breaking down into natural elements in a compost environment. Because it’s broken down into its natural elements, it causes no harm to the environment. The breakdown process usually takes about 90 days. Organic waste requires the right level of heat, water, and oxygen to go through a composting process. In a pile of organic waste, there are millions of tiny microbes that consume the waste, transforming the organic materials into compost. In order to claim a product is compostable, it must meet all the requirements in the European Norm EN 13432 and/or the US Standard ASTM D6400. Both specifications require that compostable products completely decompose in a composting setting in a specific time frame, leaving no harmful residues behind. Compostable products are not recyclable, and if a compostable item gets into the recycling process, it will contaminate the rest of the batch.

Compostable Favorites

16 Oz Wheat Travel Tumbler

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Alameda Wheat Straw Cutlery Set

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Montado Cork and Linen Journal

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Wheat Utensil Lunch Set

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Comparing the Two

The primary difference between compostable and biodegradable is that compostable products require a specific setting to break down, whereas biodegradable products break down naturally. Typically composting is a faster process, but only under the right conditions. Both of these kinds of products are better for the environment than plastic products that can take hundreds of years to disintegrate. While biodegradable items refer to just any material that breaks down and decomposes in the environment, compostable goods are specifically organic matter, which breaks down. The end product has many beneficial uses, including fertilizing and improving soil health. While biodegrading is dependent on the products being exposed to the right amount of moisture and temperature, compostable products will break down easily despite external environmental factors. Adding a compost system in your home is a great first step in practicing sustainability!

What's Better for the Environment?

Not all biodegradable material is compostable. Although biodegradable materials return to nature and can disappear completely, they often leave behind metal residue. On the other hand, compostable materials create something called humus that is full of nutrients and great for plants. In summary, compostable products are biodegradable but with an added benefit. That is, when they break down, they release nutrients into the soil, aiding the growth of trees and plants. Biodegradable options will eventually break down, but there is not necessarily a timeframe for when the items will break down. In conclusion, compostable products are technically more environmentally friendly than biodegradable items.

Interested in going green with your promotional giveaways? Take a peek at our eco-friendly page!


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