Compostable vs Biodegradable – Do you know the difference?

So often I see these words used in an interchangeable way and it seems to be confusing people. Let’s break these barriers to understanding down.

Biodegradable means that the item in question will break down into smaller pieces. It might be a natural item such as food, in which case it is also compostable but that often isn’t the case. Being biodegradable can mean that if the item is plastic, it simply breaks down into lots of smaller pieces of microplastics. Now that wouldn’t be great for our compost, nor is it great for the environment. I tend to see this as a greenwash of sorts.

Then we have compostable items. Compostable means that the item will break down into a natural element again. That said, even when something IS compostable, not all compostable items are suitable for home composting. These items need to be sent to a commercial facility to be broken down but the sad reality is most of the items that are listed as compostable but not suitable for home composting end up in the bin heading for landfill regardless.

And further still, if you have a home compostable plastic (such as the ones around our @playinchoc bars) and you start putting it in the plastics recycling bin that can end up accidentally contaminating the recycling process. Talk about good intentions going to waste… literally!

It’s easy to see why folks get confused and often brands WANT to confuse us so we think they are doing better things for the environment than they in reality are.

Has that helped clear anything up in your head? Have you used any products recently that have had a confusing message regarding this issue? Feel free to join the conversation over on Instagram where we have all been chatting about it.