Biodegradable means …..
Biodegradable products break down through a naturally occurring microorganism, such as fungi or bacteria over a period of time.
They must degrade into simple, stable compounds which can be absorbed into the ecosystem.
Compostable means…..To be classed compostable, items must
- Biodegrade within a certain time (around the rate at which paper biodegrades.)
- The resulting particles must be very small
- The resulting biomass must be free of toxins, able to sustain plant life and be used as an organic fertilizer or soil additive.
For a man-made product to be sold as compostable, it has to meet certain standards. One such is the
European Norm EN13432
- This is a EU Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC), EN 13432:2000 – “Packaging: requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation”
- It was introduced in 2000.
- It has been adopted by the UK and is published as BS EN 13432 by the British Standards Institution.
Comprehensive evidence has to be submitted before a product gets ‘compostable’ certification.
HOWEVER compostable in this instance means that these products will break down in an industrial composter. Therefore, while a product might be classed as both biodegradable and compostable, it might not break down in a backyard bin.
Vinçotte, a Belgian accredited inspection and certification organisation, provide a home composting certification service. Products that display the ‘OK Compost Home’ logo, can go in your bin.
The Association for Organics Recycling is working to establish a similar specification for the UK.
So, to conclue, compostable products must break down into carbon dioxide, water, and compost.
There are legally enforced standards by which you can measure the compostability of a product.
To be sure you are getting a compostable plastic get one that has been certified
Please note, biodegradable plastic does not always mean compostable. Sometimes it means the plastic product has an addative that helps it break apart more quickly.
One type of compostable plastic is made from Poly Lactic Acid (PLA). Find out about PLA plastic here
While most agree that PLA plastic is compostable, many say that it can only composted in large scale municipal schemes.
As we don’t have many large scale municipal schemes, this is,they go on to say, a pointless advantage.
I say the days of large scale municipal schemes is fast approaching as governments aim to divert biodegradable rubbish from landfill sites.
Besides which, have been composting my PLA plastic for years. Biobags, deli pots and cutlery have gone into my bin and been transformed into mulch for the roses.
Try one of these compost bins for come & garden
Useful stuff to know
Why leaves rot – How Biodegrading Works
Why most plastics dont -t Why Plastic Doesnt Rot
Remember, not all bio- plastics can be composted and do not biodegrade – bioplastics dont mean biodegradable.
Yup its confusing but try everything you ever wanted to know about plastic.but were too scared to ask, to find out a lot more about plastic.
Inspired to give up plastic? Check these plastic-free products. Use them then compost them.