Compostable vs. Degradable vs. Biodegradable – What’s the Difference?

Compostable vs. Degradable vs. Biodegradable

In a world that’s far more aware of the importance of sustainability, it can be a challenge to get to grips with marketing jargon. You want to make sure the products you purchase are safe for the environment, but how do you understand the various terms that describe if it is or not?

Three terms you will see thrown around quite a bit are: compostable, degradable, and biodegradable. Do they mean the same thing? Are they different? Is one better than the other? Read on to learn what these three words mean, and if you should be using any product labelled with any of them more than the other.

What is a Biodegradable Product?

Something biodegradable is the epitome of sustainability. It means that the item you have just bought can break down into the natural environment through natural elements and organisms.

The way in which they biodegrade can make all the difference as well. If they use water, organic material, and carbon dioxide, they are breaking down without doing any harm to the environment.

Most products that boast a “biodegradable” label feature sustainable materials and plant by-products.

However, how you dispose of your biodegradable product can matter more than you might think. In a landfill environment, it may not be able to break down while being buried under tonnes of trash. The best way to dispose of such products is by sending them to a recycling plant.

What is a Compostable Product?

If you own a compost bin, then it’s in your best interests to be on the hunt for products that are labelled “compostable”. These will break down in around three months, but only in a compost environment. In most cases, compostable products boast plant materials, PLA plastic, corn starch, and other such components. When they break down, they also leach nutrients into the soil to promote soil health.

Compostable products do not break down well in a landfill, nor are they recyclable. Therefore, if you notice that something you own is compostable, you may like to consider starting a compost area in your yard, which can all but benefit your garden and soil health.

What is a Degradable Product?

Degradable products are oil-based products that break down not organically but through chemical reactions. Degradable products will degrade in landfill, but not for the purposes of soil health and the environment. Instead, they form small material pieces that can end up being quite harmful to the environment. These products also take longer to break down than the likes of compostable or biodegradable products.

Now that you know the difference between compostable, degradable, and biodegradable, you can make better product purchasing decisions. Be on the lookout for labelling that promotes sustainability and environmental care. Take this opportunity to also look at living a “zero waste” lifestyle. Set up a compost bin, buy plastic-free products, and become more aware of products that help the environment rather than harm it. You would be amazed at how easy it can be.