The Difference Between Biodegradable, Compostable and Recyclable Products

Did you know? Worldwide, approximately 400 million tonnes of plastics produced every single year. It means more than a billion-kilogram of production just in a single day. That’s Shocking, Right? After seeing this figure, you should not ask ‘Why to use Compostable, Biodegradable & Recyclable products instead of Plastics?’ Plastic pollution harms the environment very much. plastic pollution is the accumulation of different plastic objects like plastic bottles, packing materials, kitchenware, trash bags etc. So, to avoid this problem of plastic pollution, what we should do? Use compostable and biodegradable products and also we should recycle those plastic objects instead of burning them.

All these three terms, Compostable, Biodegradable & Recyclable are used by companies nowadays to an increasing extent to describe their product. Because companies nowadays are more socially responsible and they are aware of the environmental effects of using these kinds of products. It’s shocking to hear that it takes around 500 years to decompose plastic items in landfills.

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There comes biodegradable plastics which are decomposed fully between three to six months. When we search for green products, three words come up offer: Compostable, Biodegradable, and Recyclable. But what’s the difference between all these three terms? Do we know about them? What do we need to know? Many times, compostable and biodegradable both are used interchangeably and similarly. It is very important to understand Compostable, Biodegradable, and Recyclable because all these three terms are not equivalent and should not be used similarly. There the question arises, what’s the difference between all these three? and which one is more effective?


Why should you compost? Here’s the answer, Compostable products are those which can break down in water, carbon dioxide, biomass, & other inorganic compounds in small pieces in around 90 days.

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People mostly confuse themselves with two types of packaging/batch in a product i.e. Compostable and Biodegradables. Customers consider compostable and biodegradable as the same. But, it is not necessary all the time that a compostable product is also biodegradable. Because compostable items/products are those which require a specific process to undertake while, in the case of biodegradable products, they are capable of being decomposed naturally, to reduce pollution. Compostable products help in reducing compost and also it helps in waste management. It not only manages waste but, it efficiently manages the waste which decomposes and then turns to fertilizer for the soil. Compostable simply means, taking organic materials and allowing it to decompose which then creates fertilizer for the soil. Composting helps you in enriching your soil, helps in retaining moisture and it also suppresses plant disease. After realizing various benefits of compostable, different companies shifted to compostable plastics. It is a modern generation plastic, the plastic is biodegradable through composting. How composting process works? It works because of millions of tiny microbes. They consume waste and transform organic material into compost. Compostable undergoes degradation by biological process and it adds nutrients to the soil and it is expected to decompose in around ninety days. Now, what is compostable? It includes yard waste, tea bags & coffee grounds, paper towels & napkins, 100% paper plates, egg shells, coffee filters, peanut shells, toothpicks, paper muffin cups food scraps, and other compostable serving wares are all compostable.

Composting is beyond free fertilizer for your garden. Composting is one of the important and necessary strategies to reduce wastage and prevent air pollution that may cause climate change. Compostable helps in improving the soil returns some valuable nutrients into your soil, and it also helps in maintaining the fertility and quality of your soil. Compostable also saves your money. You are not required to buy costly chemicals for fertilizers because composting is free fertilizer so it will avoid water pollution in rivers which arises due to chemical fertilizers. It also helps in retaining soil moisture so there would be less requirement of water. This process provides organic matter and nutrients to the soil which will help in improving plant growth and lead to better yields. Thus, it is a win/win situation for both i.e. for you and for the environment. Did you know? Composting can remove 20% to 50% of your household waste stream and it also reduces the burden on landfills. This is the reason why compostable items when we compost it are far more than just free fertilizer for your garden.

Compostable is very important. Here are some advantages to it:

  • Compost includes an abundance of nutrients which benefits your soil.
  • Waste management & Reduction with compost.
  • Reduction in methane gas with composting.
  • Compostable is important in preventing soil erosion.
  • It also improves resistance to both, plant diseases and insect pests.
  • Compostable helps in preventing erosion on roadways, hillsides, mine slopes etc.

Hence, Compostable play a crucial role in nutrient content and soil structure. Compostable and Biodegradable, both these terms are used interchangeably but, the fact is both terms are different. Now let’s see how Biodegradable differs from compostable.


Biodegradable products/substances/objects are capable of being decomposed by bacteria and other living organisms on the earth. Now you might think, why are Biodegradable products are given more importance? The reason is simple, biodegradable products are capable of being decomposed and due to which it reduces pollution in the environment and the crucial thing is biodegradable products are able to decay naturally unlike compostable products/items. You might perceive that biodegradable plastics are good for the environment. Are biodegradable plastics really Eco-Friendly? It totally depends on the type of biodegradable. What does it biodegrade into? Is it toxic or non-toxic? How long does the process take? These are the questions arise when you think, whether a biodegradable item is eco-friendly or not. Some companies plaster the symbol of biodegradable but, consumers are unaware of the reality. It is an effort by companies to make consumers believe that they are conscious of the environment. Being biodegradable does not always mean that it is compostable as well. We all know that biodegradables and compostable confuse many people and there is a big difference. Compostable products/items are those which decomposed through a commercial process and after it decomposes it turns into nutrients and fertilizer for soil i.e. it is beneficial for the soil. While, in the case of biodegradable, it is not always necessary that it will able to provide nutrients when biodegradables are used as compost. Compostable products break down, decomposes at an expected rate of 90 days while in biodegradables there is no reference to the amount of time needed for degradation. It varies from the product type, but way less than 1000 years. There are non-biodegradable products which require the use of chemical for decomposition. Biodegradable products do not require the use of any chemical for its decomposition.

Thus, biodegradable products are less damaging to the environment as compared to non-biodegradable products which require the use of chemicals. Here’s the list which includes different biodegradable items/examples:

  • Fruit Peels
  • Cotton
  • Leaves
  • Wastes of humans and animals
  • Paper
  • Wood
  • Leftovers
  • Remains of dead organisms
  • Flowers and grass clippings

All the examples shown in the above list are biodegradable and are decomposed naturally. As we all know, biodegradables do not have any time limit for its decomposition, some companies hide behind vague transparency and consumers get confused due to this. Consumers perceive products will take less time to break down or decompose but there is no specific time limit for the breakdown of biodegradables. The decomposition of biodegradables is based on the type of biodegradable. Biodegradable products pass through the natural process, capable of being slowly broken down or destroyed into tiny parts. Biodegradable packaging materials break down by fungi, bacteria, or other microorganisms. Some companies mislead consumers through their biodegradable mark on the packaging of the product. Some advantages of biodegradables are as follows:

  • Composting ability
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Less pollution

Here, we have seen how compostable and biodegradables differ from each other. Let’s have a look at what is the role and importance of recyclable products?


Recycling concept is around for thousands of years. It might seem a modern concept but it was developed in the early years of the 20th century. After resolving confusion between, compostable and biodegradables, another important term here comes when we talk about environmentally friendly products, the term is recyclables. Many of us grew up saying that, reduce, reuse and recycle. What does all three mean? We should reduce the number of wastage that goes to landfill, reuse the item/product for more than once and we should recycle items which are no longer appropriate to use. Compostable and Biodegradables might have some similarities but, recycling is distinct of these two. Due to recycling, it helps in reusing the item after processing it which ultimately benefits the environment. Recycling also helps in reducing the cost of manufacturing. The basic object of recycling is to find another use for something. The scrap is collected and being sent for processing. Recycling takes energy and manual process while biodegradables and compostable don’t. But, recyclables also helps in reducing the cost of re-manufacturing.

According to the report from the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans recycle approximately 34 percent of all the wastage they create. Through this figure, we could understand how important recycling and recyclable products are. There are some countries that have the highest recycling rate. These countries are Germany, Austria, and South Korea and their recycling rate is around more than 50% of all the wastage they create. Here, we can see the list of Recyclables:

  • Backpacks
  • Books
  • Appliances
  • Clothes
  • Candles
  • Crayons
  • Engine oil
  • Electronic waste
  • Food waste
  • Furniture
  • Plastic Bottles
  • Newspapers
  • Notebooks
  • Paint Cans

This is a small list of recyclables. By the way, there are thousands of things which can be recycled and by recycling them, we can actually cut down their cost of production. It depends on the people, whether they are recycling or not. Also, how they are recycling. It benefits both, people and the environment. People can save their money through recycling and at the same time there would be a reduction in wastage so, it’ll benefit the environment. We also see Recyclable symbol in many products which means that packaging can be remade into something for reuse. But, the main point is how efficiently you are recycling the product. What are difficulties faced by recyclables? Recycling consists of higher costs in terms of machinery and labor. It is a bit costlier process. It requires proper machinery and labor to make recyclable usable.

According to Bedarf, ‘It’s kind of a misnomer to say whether something’s recyclable or not. It’s really what’s recyclable given our current collection, sorting and processing infrastructure.’ From the above definition, we can say that everything is recyclable. It depends on us whether and how we are recycling. Another importance of recyclables is, a single recycled plastic bottle saves energy, reduces air pollution – due to the manufacture of that bottle and it also reduces water pollution. Here are some main advantages of recyclables:

  • Recycling reuses the product for the same purpose.
  • Longer lasting.
  • More durable.
  • It helps in protecting the environment.
  • Recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Recycling saves resources.
  • It helps in reducing incineration. And, there are many more advantages of recyclables. But, the main roadblock while recycling is Recycling practices varies with region and its costs of machinery and labor.

Conclusion – Compostable vs Biodegradable vs Recyclable

Mostly, compostable and biodegradable are considered to be the same and both these terms are used interchangeably. But, there is a huge difference between both of these terms. Compostable adds nutrients to the soil without leaving toxic substances in the soil. While in the case of biodegradables, some biodegradables spread toxic which harms the soil or landfill. The Recyclable term is quite different than compostable and biodegradables. Recycling items help in remaking something new which is used earlier. Thus, compostable, biodegradable & recyclable items/product usage has a huge impact on the environment. So, we should consider different advantages & limitations before going for any of these three.

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The Difference Between Biodegradable, Compostable and Recyclable Products. (2021, Apr 16). Retrieved from

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