September 05, 2021 3 min read

If you’re anything like me, when you order something online or in a store, you really appreciate the packaging. It creates the vibe & feeling of the product you’re purchasing, and is especially important when you are buying it for a present.

But what happens when you're finished with it? There are SO MANY different kinds of sustainable packaging nowadays, it can be confusing to know what you’re meant to do with it.


So what’s the difference between biodegradable, degradable and compostable. And how are we meant to dispose of them?


The key thing to note is that while all compostable products are biodegradable, not all biodegradable products are compostable. The main differences are related to: what they are made of, how they decompose, and the leftover elements once they break down.


Degradable

Degradable products are primarily made from plastics with other chemicals added, and break down through chemical reactions. Unlike biodegradable products, degradable plastic items can break down in anaerobic environments like landfills.

These products do not break down fully, but rather break apart into tiny microscopic pieces  e.g. microplastics, which can be problematic as animals can ingest these tiny pieces causing major issues in the food chain.

These products take a lot longer to break down than biodegradable or compostable items. 


Which Bin? Degradable products and packaging should be placed into your general waste bin. 

 

Biodegradable

Like degradable products, biodegradables are often still plastic that have microorganisms added to break down the plastic, meaning they break down faster than degradable products.

Compared with the composting process, biodegradable products can take several months to break down and some recent studies found that some of these products degrade and still leave microplastics waste behind. 


Which bin? Biodegradable bags should only be used for and placed into your general waste bin. Biodegradable products could contaminate your green waste/compostable waste.


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. 

Compostable products produce humus, upon breaking down, which is the richest and most important part of all soils. 

Compostable products need a specific compostable environment to degrade which includes warm temperatures, nutrients, moisture and plenty of oxygen.


Which bin? Compostable bags can be used to line your kitchen caddy for collection of food scraps and then placed into the green lidded food and garden organics (FOGO) bin. Don’t waste them in your general waste bin as they will not compost well in a landfill environment.


So why is knowing the difference so important?


Compostable items don’t leave toxic residue behind because it’s already organic and the end products also have beneficial uses including fertilisation to improve soil health. But! Its all about the right environment. If a product is compostable, it needs to be disposed of in a compostable environment to have a positive environmental impact.

Unlike compostable, certain biodegradable products can take several years to break down and in some cases even leave toxic waste behind.

Think about the possibility of building your own compost at home or leave your compostable waste in the compostable bins near your home.















The wordsustainabilityis used a lot lately. It’s awesome to see more businesses

moving towards more environmentally sustainable practices, but as a consumer, it's important to understand what it all means and where we fit into it. 


It's a big area.. with a lot of different avenues to explore to understand the whole picture.. So today we are going to start withhumble packaging…‘green’ packaging to be specific.








https://www.burnside.sa.gov.au/files/assets/public/environment-amp-sustainability/waste-recycling-amp-composting/waste-collection/what-goes-in-which-bin/compostable-degradable-and-biodegradable-bags-fact-sheet.pdf

Rebecca Pink
Rebecca Pink


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