Ever since the onset of COVID-19 and the physical restrictions imposed by governments worldwide, online business has grown leaps and bounds. More and more customers opt for the safety and comfort of ordering and fulfilling their requirements from their homes or offices. To attract more customers, online retailers are seeking customers by playing the sustainability card. Suddenly certain terminologies like ‘green,’ ‘natural’ and ‘eco-friendly’ have exploded on the net. Naturally, this trend has hit the packaging products as well, where we are now encountering terms like ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’ very often. As intelligent customers, we need to learn and understand these terms and their actual impact on the environment or how they differ.
So let’s understand the difference between Biodegradable and Compostable Packaging.
When we call a packaging material Biodegradable, it means that it will break down completely and return to natural elements upon the material being disposed of after usage. Usually, materials labelled as biodegradable take their time to break down; it can be a year or more. There is no specific time limit. Biodegradable materials are used more and more these days for landfills as it serves the twin purpose of reducing the cost and at the same time putting the waste to good use.
Even though Compostable packaging materials are similar to biodegradable materials, both decompose to natural elements. However, compostable packaging material goes one step further to provide vital nutrients to the earth as they convert to soil manure in the process of its decomposition. While biodegradable materials can be disposed of in any landfill area, compostable materials can be disposed of only in specifically designated compost piles with certain wind, sunlight, and drainage requirements.
There are two major types of composting:
1. Residential composting refers to the simple process of collecting food /vegetable/fruit scraps and dumping them along with garden waste in the backyard to create compost. The wastes need to be mixed and turned in frequently, and if required, you can also add some agents to quicken the process of decomposing while creating the compost. The waste can be used as manure rich in nutrients when it gradually turns into organic material.
2. Commercial composting involves a bit more technology and know-how. In commercial composting, both organic and inorganic material are separated, and where required, they are broken down into smaller particles with chippers or grinders for faster decomposition. They also operate under certain optimal moisture, temperature, and wind conditions along with drainage facilities. As a result of these steps involved, more complex products can be broken down in a commercial composting unit than home composting.
Even though, essentially, both biodegradable and compostable material decomposes, the difference lies in ultimately what they leave behind after breaking down.
The Significance of Biodegradable and Compostable Packaging
When properly disposed of, compostable and biodegradable packaging is the perfect option for extending the world’s life, offering an imaginative and practical alternative to our current use and throw trends in society. These items use less energy and are much more environmentally friendly than using recyclable material, and provide an alternative to non-recyclable packaging.
Since paper and plastic can only be recycled a limited number of times, it is not a long-term solution for sustainability. Recycling is a more suitable choice long-term solution for materials like glass or aluminium etc. After a certain amount of cycles, discarded paper and plastic are more than likely to end up in landfills. This is where inventions such as biodegradable landfill packaging come out as a convenient waste disposal option, which involves no significant change in lifestyle.
Although not all biodegradable packaging can be disposed of sustainably, we are already into the early stages of a global transition toward a greener lifestyle. Industrial composting and biodegradation facilities would eventually be replacing conventional waste disposal in the future, finally putting an end to the devastating landfill crisis. Since most biodegradable goods do not specify how long they will take to decompose, it is usually safer and a lot easier to use compostable packaging. Composting has many advantages: it can be carried out at home in a conventional compost heap or worm bins or even compost bags and used to promote the growth of new plants. It would be good to check out the requirements for sustainability or disposability of the various packaging choices before going for the same. Whatever option you select, it’s good to look into the basic requirements for long-term disposal of the different packaging choices.
Newpack provides compostable mailers in black and white colours. Read our blogs “The Importance of Sustainable Packaging” & “How to Compost your Compostable Mailers” to get a complete understanding of what, why, and how compostable mailers are better solutions for long-term sustainability.