What’s the Difference Between “Compostable” and “Biodegradable”?

The emergence of eco-friendly product packaging was driven by the need to create a new packaging solution that does not generate the same waste and toxicity as known synthetic materials, such as conventional plastics. Compostable and biodegradable are terms commonly used in the topic of sustainability in packaging materials, but what is the difference? What is the difference when describing packaging properties as “compostable” or “biodegradable”?

1. What is “compostable”?

If the material is compostable, it means that under composting conditions (temperature, humidity, oxygen and the presence of microorganisms) it will break down into CO2, water and nutrient-rich compost within a specific time frame.

2. What is “biodegradable”?

The term “biodegradable” represents a process, but there is no certainty as to the conditions or timeframe under which the product will break down and degrade. The problem with the term “biodegradable” is that it is a vague term with no clear time or conditions. As a result, many things that would not be “biodegradable” in practice can be labeled as “biodegradable”. Technically speaking, all naturally occurring organic compounds can be biodegraded under the right conditions and will break down over a period of time, but it may take hundreds or thousands of years.

3. Why is “compostable” better than “biodegradable”?

If people bag is labeled “compostable,” people can be sure that it will decompose under composting conditions within a maximum of 180 days. This is similar to how food and garden waste are broken down by microorganisms, leaving a non-toxic residue.

4. Why is compostability important?

Plastic packaging waste is often so contaminated with food waste that it can’t be recycled and ends up in incineration or landfills. That’s why compostable packaging was introduced. Not only does it avoid landfills and incineration, but the resulting compost returns organic matter to the soil. Suppose packaging waste can be integrated into organic waste systems and used as compost for the next generation of plants (nutrient-rich soil). In that case, the waste is recyclable and usable for the market, not only as “trash” but also as economically valuable.

If people are interested in compostable tableware, please contact for more information.

Zhongxin offers a variety of creative products created from renewable and recycled materials, such as bowls, cups, lids, plates and containers.

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