What does biodegradable mean?

Date Posted:10 January 2021 


With many companies opting for a green approach, biodegradable products are often used to describe goods or packaging, but what exactly does it mean?  

 

What is biodegradable?

By definition, biodegradable refers to a substance or object that is capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms, thereby avoiding pollution.

 

Is paper biodegradable?

Paper is biodegradable because it is made from plant materials (wood), however paper that goes to landfill may not always fully decompose if it is not exposed to the right conditions. An eco-friendly approach is to recycle, as this reduces the need for production of new paper, reducing the number of trees that need to be cut down. Paper can be recycled up to 6-7 times before the fibres breakdown too much to be turned in to paper. At Sassy Organics, we love eco friendly biodegradable paper gift cardsprinted in Australia on 100% post consumer waste recycled card using soy based ink.

 

Is cardboard biodegradable?

Cardboard is a natural material made from trees and takes about 2 months to biodegrade. Opting for a cardboard box to transport your groceries instead of plastic bags is a better use of biodegradable packaging since it can be composted or recycled. If cardboard is covered in wax it will take longer to decompose. If the cardboard is ripped up, the fibres will break down quicker. Heat and moisture will also speed up the process of biodegrading. 

 

Is cotton biodegradable?

As cotton is a natural fibre it is biodegradable, taking around 2-5 months to decompose. A cotton blend material however may take longer depending on what the material is blended with. For example, a polyester cotton mix material may take anywhere from 20 to 200 years to biodegrade. Choosing 100% natural organic fibres make the fabric an eco-friendly choice. 

 

Biodegradable vs compostable

Biodegradable products will break down over time provided they are exposed to the right environment (exposed to oxygen, moisture and heat). Compostable materials break down quite quickly in a compostable environment and leave behind nutrient-rich organic material, creating healthy soil for the environment and plant growth. Sow 'n Sow compostable gift cards are a perfect examples of compostable material.

 

Oxo degradable plastic

This class of plastic is broken down more slowly than biodegradable plastic. It is not completely dissolved in nature, leaving behind microplastics in the soil. Examples of oxo degradable plastics are degradable plastic cutlery and straws, degradable plastic bottles and plastic wrap. Pearlbar Floss Picks handle is made with oxo-biodegradable plastic, which uses technology that converts products into biodegradable materials once they’re ready to be returned to the earth.

 

What about bioplastic?

The trend in sustainable living has given rise to bioplastic which are biodegradable plastics made from natural plant materials such as corn starch. On average, biodegradable bags take about 3-6 months to decompose, a huge contrast to the conventional plastic bag which take up to 1,000 years. Bioplastic is an easy substitute where you still want the convenience without the environmental impact, for example, biodegradable bin liners and biodegradable dog poop bags

 

More eco-friendly convenience items

While reusable items are fantastic for reducing waste and the need for producing new materials, they do require a level of organization, and while we may have the best of intentions, sometimes a busy schedule can see us opting for convenience over sustainability. This is where biodegradable products shine. For example, biodegradable baby wipes are fantastic for mothers who are time poor or simply not organised enough. Biodegradable wipes and biodegradable nappy bags make getting out of the house that little bit easier for some. Even a simple swap like getting the family to use a biodegradable toothbrush instead of the regular plastic ones can make a difference to the planet. More and more cafes are using biodegradable coffee cups which are perfect for customers that may have forgotten their keep cup or for those less eco-consciouses. Biodegradable cups mean that cafes can still offer take away without the enormous environmental impact of single-use items. 

 

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