Biodegradable vs Degradable vs Compostable

One of the fastest growing foodservice trends is switching from traditional disposables and foodservice products to eco-friendly options. When searching for eco-friendly products for your restaurant, you may come across the terms “biodegradable”, “degradable”, and “compostable”. We explain the differences between biodegradable, degradable, and compostable products, and how your restaurant can go zero waste with eco-friendly disposable, Biodegradable, Compostable, and Degradable: What’s the Difference?

Biodegradable, Compostable, and Degradable: What’s the Difference?

Biodegradable, compostable, and degradable products are made from different materials and deteriorate under distinct circumstances. We break down what each material is to help you make an informed decision when buying green disposable dinnerware for your business.

What Does Biodegradable Mean?

Biodegradable refers to a product breaking down into natural elements, carbon dioxide, and water vapor by organisms like bacteria and fungi. Technically, just about everything is biodegradable, although it will take hundreds of thousands of years for most things to biodegrade. Discover the benefits of biodegradable products below.

  • Biodegradable products break down much faster than other types of products.
  • Biodegradable products break down into carbon dioxide, water vapor, and organic material, which aren’t harmful to the environment.
  • Typically, they’re made from sustainable materials and plant by-products, such as cornstarch or sugarcane.

Why Biodegradable Products Shouldn’t Go to Landfills

While biodegradable products are an eco-friendly option for restaurants, there are some downsides as well. When biodegradable products are dumped into landfills, which happens when they’re thrown into the trash, they often get buried. Beneficial bacteria cannot survive buried underneath trash because there is very little oxygen.

As a result, the biodegradable products break down anaerobically, meaning without oxygen, which creates methane, a greenhouse gas that is bad for the environment. Some landfills collect the methane produced in their landfills and use it to create electricity, but most do not.

How to Dispose of Biodegradable Products

Because biodegradable products in landfills can create harmful methane, it is better to dispose of them in a commercial compost heap or to send them to a recycling plant. You can also check if there is a biogas plant in your area, which uses biodegradable products to create methane which they then use to generate electricity.

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