Packaging and plastic products may claim to be environmentally-friendly using terms such as "biodegradable" and "biocompostable". But what do these terms mean, and what is the difference between them? To understand the effects that these materials have on our planet, it is important to learn the differences.
Biodegradable refers to the capacity for materials to break down and return to nature within a landfill. For packaging products or materials to qualify as biodegradable, they must completely break down and decompose into natural elements within a short time after disposal - typically within a year. Biodegrading within landfills reduces the accumulation of waste, helping to create a safer and healthier environment. Materials that are biodegradable include wood, paper, cardboard and even some plastics. However most plastics are not biodegradable, and so, remaining in landfill sights.
Compostable materials differ from biodegradable materials by providing the earth with nutrients once the material has completely composted. While biodegradable materials are designed to break down within landfills, compostable materials require special composting conditions. These materials can be added to home composters or, for larger amounts, an industrial composters which are designated sites with specific conditions dependent on weather and drainage amongst other conditions. Compostable packaging materials include BioViron foam, an alternative to polystyrene, that can be dissolved in water or added to composters for safe disposal.