"Compostable" and "biodegradable" are terms often used to describe materials that break down in the environment, but they have distinct differences:
Compostable materials are specifically designed to break down in a composting environment, where organic matter decomposes into nutrient-rich soil known as compost. To be considered compostable, a material must meet specific standards and certifications, such as ASTM D6400 or EN 13432. These standards ensure that the material breaks down into non-toxic components within a certain timeframe under composting conditions.
Compostable materials typically require specific conditions to decompose efficiently, including the right temperature, humidity, and microbial activity found in compost piles or facilities. The resulting compost can be used to enrich soil and support plant growth, making compostable materials beneficial for the environment.
Biodegradable materials are those that can naturally break down over time through the actions of microorganisms, sunlight, and other environmental factors.
Unlike compostable materials, biodegradable materials do not have strict standards or certifications to define their biodegradability, which means the timeframe for decomposition can vary widely.
Biodegradable materials can break down in various environments, including landfills, water bodies, and soil, but the speed and completeness of decomposition depend on the specific conditions.
While biodegradable materials can ultimately decompose into smaller components, they may not always result in nutrient-rich compost like compostable materials.
In summary, compostable materials are a subset of biodegradable materials that are designed to break down into compost under specific conditions. Composting is a controlled process that converts organic matter into a valuable soil conditioner, whereas biodegradation refers to the natural breakdown of materials over time, which can occur in various environments. It's important to note that the terms "compostable" and "biodegradable" should be used accurately, as misuse or mislabeling can lead to environmental confusion and issues. Always check for specific certifications and guidelines when dealing with products claiming to be compostable or biodegradable.