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What is the difference between eco-friendly and biodegradable?

Compostable and biodegradable are two terms that have gained popularity in recent years and are frequently interchanged with one another. However, are these two names actually interchangeable, or is there a significant distinction between them (spoiler alert: there is a significant distinction)?


In a world where businesses like to use words that sound environmentally friendly as selling points and marketing moves, it is important to know exactly what each term refers to and how to check if a product is actually sustainable. This is because companies like to use words that sound environmentally friendly as a selling point and marketing move.

What does it mean when something is biodegradable?

Something that is biodegradable will ultimately, through a natural process, disintegrate into smaller and smaller pieces. However, this does not have to occur within a predetermined amount of time for anything to be regarded as biodegradable. Therefore, even if they are harmful to the environment, many very unsustainable materials (including plastic) can be classified as biodegradable. This is also true of "eco-friendly alternatives" such as rice husk, corn starch, and wheat straw. The fragments that a substance breaks down into may very well be poisonous and bad for the environment.


Biodegradable doesn't always equate to composting or even remotely sustainable.

What does it mean when something is compostable?

Contrarily, under the correct circumstances, compostable materials decompose into entirely non-toxic components that do not harm the environment. The amount of time it takes a product to decompose varies on the environment it's decomposing in; certain products can be composted at home, while others might need the conditions of an industrial composting facility. Higher amounts of heat, oxygen, water, and microorganism activity are provided by these commercial composting facilities, which are parameters that cannot be met by a home compost.


How to recognise a compostable product?

Any product may bear the term "biodegradable," but this does not imply that it is environmentally friendly. On the other hand, a product must be able to degrade in an industrial composting facility within 180 days in order to be labelled as biodegradable. Depending on where you live, there is a large range of distinct certifying bodies for biodegradable products.


The finest labels to search for are TUV ones because the products that receive them go through a lot of monitoring and inspection. Every compound that a product breaks down into is examined for even trace amounts of toxicity and proof of complete decomposition. Products that pass this examination are marked as being certified EN 13432 compliant in Europe. These goods are marked as complying with ASTM D6400 in the US. However, the most well-known certification mark to seek in the US is the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), which also demands conformity with ASTM D6400 and other test findings. The Australian Bioplastics Association (ABA) conducts testing on polymer materials in Australia. Successfully certified products bear a seedling logo and are marked as complying with AS4736.

Always pay attention to the messaging when purchasing products that make sustainability claims. Is the product compostable or just marked with the phrase "biodegradable" on the packaging? Beware of companies who greenwash their products in an effort to deceive consumers who are merely trying to make better decisions.


The best thing you can do is to constantly increase your awareness, discover what items may be composted, ask questions, and speak up. We are where the change begins.


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