The Difference Between Biodegradable and Compostable
In the early 2000s, with terms like “eco-friendly” and “green,” it was easy to stay on top of whether you were doing good for the environment. But, now, we’re taking things a bit more seriously which means it’s also time to get serious about how we label items that are made to help make the earth a better place. While it’s great to be green, it’s important to make sure you’re aware of the different terms that encompass this green movement. Biodegradable and compostable are two terms that are easy to get confused. While many might think of them as interchangeable, they’re really not the same thing. When comparing biodegradable vs. compostable, it’s important to look at the differences in biodegradable and compostable plastic bags.
Biodegradable vs Compostable in Plastic Bags and Other Materials
When it comes to biodegradable and compostable products, it can go one way, but not the other. Items that are biodegradable are also compostable, but not all compostable items are biodegradable. Everything that you have that is biodegradable can also be composted, but you must pay close attention to items that are compostable because they will likely need a specific environment to break down which is part of their intended purpose.
The biggest difference is that compostable materials need a specific environment to be broken down while biodegradable products just naturally do it (although having a hospitable environment may make them break down faster).
For a material to be able to be considered biodegradable, it needs to be able to break down on its own. It should not require any extra additives or even being put in a specific environment to be able to break down. Most products that are labeled as such can be broken down within three to six months, but it can occur faster depending on outside factors. While the length of time may seem long, it is actually a much shorter length of time than the hundreds of years it takes for synthetic products to break down.
We’ve probably all heard someone throw a banana peel or a wad of gum out of the window of a call with the shrug of a shoulder and a nonchalant “it’s okay, it’s biodegradable,” but that doesn’t mean it’s not litter. Biodegradable products are doing their jobs to lessen the impact of waste on the environment, but they should still be disposed of properly.
In its most basic form, composting is a form of recycling. By adding compostable products and ensuring they are in the right environment with the correct humidity and temperature, they will break down to a soil that is rich in nutrients. The environment should be prepared with a certain type and amount of bacteria, soil and other nutrients.
While composting is its own form of recycling, neither biodegradable products or compostable products should be recycled with traditional recycling as they can contaminate the process. There are specific recycling centers that accept compostable material. It is important that they be taken to these facilities to ensure they are contributing to a more green environment.
Additionally, self-composting is a great option for many people. With a small time investment to get a compost set up, it can result in nutrient-rich soil that can then be used for gardening, given away or even sold. Anyone can compost and many communities around the country acztually have specific regulations that make it easier for residents to compost (some even require it).
Despite the differences between biodegradable vs compostable products, reducing waste is the best option, but it isn’t always a possibility in the industry especially with state regulations that often require businesses to create more waste. Instead, processors and dispensary owners can do well to know that there are options available to make their product packaging better for the environment.
Even a small step like switching to biodegradable or compostable plastic bags can help the environment. Other small steps you can take as a cultivator or dispensary owner:
- Only use environmentally-friendly lighting
- Turn off any unnecessary electricity in your operation
- Adjust your hours to take advantage of sunlight
- Use water timers that are optimized for the most efficient use
- Work with local vendors and other businesses to reduce the carbon footprint
- Encourage customers to reuse bags and other products
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