Compostable vs Biodegradable: Unveiling the Key Differences

What is the Difference Between Compostable and Biodegradable?

When it comes to living a more sustainable lifestyle, understanding the difference between compostable and biodegradable products is crucial. Both terms are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings that can greatly impact our efforts to reduce waste and protect the environment.

The Basics: Compostable vs Biodegradable

In simple terms, compostability refers to an item’s ability to break down into organic matter through natural processes within a specific timeframe. On the other hand, biodegradability refers to the capability of materials to decompose naturally under various environmental conditions.

The Key Differences Explained


Compostable: A product labeled as compostable means it can undergo full decomposition in composting systems over a specified period. This process turns the material into nutrient-rich soil known as compost – ideal for use in gardens or agriculture.

Biodegradable: Objects described as biodegradable will eventually break down into smaller pieces thanks to microorganisms such as bacteria or fungi present in nature. However, this term does not guarantee that these fragments will return safely back into the environment without causing harm.


Compostable: Composting generally takes months rather than years for complete decomposition. Certified compostable products should meet strict standards set by organizations like ASTM International or BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute) regarding degradation timeframes.

Biodegradable:Biodegradation periods vary depending on factors such as temperature, humidity, oxygen levels, and presence of microorganisms. It may take several months or even years before an item is fully biodegraded.

Environmental Impact:

Compostable: Composting offers numerous environmental benefits. When compostable materials break down, they release valuable nutrients into the soil, enriching it naturally. Additionally, using compost can reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and help improve soil water retention.

Biodegradable: While biodegradation occurs more slowly, it still contributes to reducing waste accumulation in landfills. However, some biodegradable products may leave behind harmful residues or microplastics during degradation that could potentially harm ecosystems if not managed properly.

Making Informed Choices

In our quest to lead eco-conscious lives and minimize our ecological footprint, understanding the difference between compostable and biodegradable is crucial when shopping for sustainable products. By opting for items certified as both compostable and/or biodegradable by recognized organizations, we can make informed choices that align with our green values.

Remember to always check product labels carefully and dispose of them accordingly – ensuring they end up in the right place after use: a commercial composter or designated recycling facility rather than general waste destined for landfills.

To achieve real change on a larger scale, promoting government policies supporting sustainable packaging solutions and encouraging manufacturers to adopt environmentally friendly practices is equally important. Together, we can foster a cleaner future where both humans and nature thrive harmoniously.