What Does Biodegradable Mean & What to Look For

What Does Biodegradable Mean & What to Look For

Purchasing biodegradable products can be confusing. Here is what you need to know and what to look for on packaging to make the right choice.

In recent years, there has been a huge shift toward a greener approach in our way of thinking and the products we use today. The number of products in the market that are biodegradable and compostable has been increasing year over year. All products that are compostable are also biodegradable as long as they are disposed of properly in a composting environment.

You might ask yourself, what exactly is a biodegradable product and why should I consider choosing one over a conventional non-biodegradable one?

What Does Biodegradable Mean?

A biodegradable product is a product that, under the right conditions, will break down much faster than a non-biodegradable product. These can include obvious things such as plants and foods, as well as alternatives to plastics such as PLA and PHA.

Most biodegradable products need to be sent to a facility that specializes in biodegradable products to be properly disposed of. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of these facilities in the United States.

What Does Compostable Mean?

One type of a biodegradable item would be a compostable product. This is a different classification of biodegradable and offers a more feasible way of disposing of it. Just like a normal biodegradable product, these still need to be taken care of properly. But the difference is that these products can be added to a composting pile in your own backyard, as well as being sent to a composting facility. We have provided a map of composting facilities throughout the United States here.

Why Should I Make the Switch?

Wondering what the benefits are to using biodegradable or compostable products? According to epa.gov, over 290 million tons of waste were generated just in the United States in 2018. That averages out to approximately 5 pounds of waste per person, per day. Only about half of all that waste ends up being recycled or incinerated, meaning that the rest ends up in a landfill.

These figures continue to climb each year. This is a major problem and landfills are continually being added two more quickly than waste can break down. Because of the way that landfills are designed, even biodegradable products cannot break down naturally in a timely manner. Some items can take up to 1,000 years to break down or longer.

If things continue the way they have, we will begin to run out of space for landfills. With an extreme amount of waste already making its way into our waterways and ocean, this is extremely concerning and bad for our environment.

The Benefits of Biodegradable & Compostable Products

According to TheBalancesMB.com, compostable products can break down in as little as 90 days. Biodegradable products, when sent to a composting facility, can break down in as little as 10 days. However, if biodegradable items are sent to landfills, they can take many years to break down.

Most products that meet biodegradable standards will say “100% Biodegradable” on the packaging. Compostable products will say if they need to be composted at a facility or are safe to compost with an at-home composter.

There are some different standards across the planet that each of these can be graded by as well, such as ASTM D6400 or ASTM D6868.

Although it should be noted that some products can be misleading when it comes to their labeling. Biodegradable should not be confused with products labeled as “degradable” or “oxo-degradable.” These labels mean that the products may break down better than normal everyday products, but they are not natural products.

Shop beyondGREEN Sustainable Products

beyondGREEN has many different sustainable products that can help provide a better future for our planet. These products can start to help us curve the trend in the right direction for a better and brighter future. Check out products such as PHA Straws, dog waste bags, and cat litter bags.


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