Increased focus on environmental issues and green products has, unfortunately, created confusion in the marketplace and the term biodegradable is quite often misused or blatantly abused. It is therefore important for environmentally concerned companies and individuals to understand the difference between biodegradable, degradable and compostable.
Biodegradation takes place when naturally occurring microorganisms (such as bacteria, algae, fungi) decompose a material. In short, they eat it. When disposed of in landfills, where these hungry microorganisms flourish in enormous populations, H3 plastic products become a desirable food source that is ingested and safely naturally biodegraded.
Degradation refers to the deterioration of plastic, or other material, as a result of environmental conditions including heat, UV light and oxygen. Degradable materials are chemically designed to begin degrading the moment they are manufactured, thus have a shortened useful lifespan.
Compostable products are capable of deteriorating into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds or biomass in a compost, or anaerobic, environment.
When it comes to all of the “green” plastic products available on the market the vast majority are in fact either compostable or degradable. Degradable plastics when disposed of in a landfill (where most plastics end up) will languish there for hundreds, even thousands, of years as they are cut off from the necessary environmental factors (air and sunlight) to degrade. The same is true for compostable plastics. Once they are trapped deep in a landfill their compostable properties are no longer valid.