The use of eco-friendly materials has become a priority for many environmentally conscious businesses. However, the terminology surrounding these materials can be confusing, particularly when it comes to distinguishing between “biosourced,” “biodegradable,” and “compostable” terms. In this article, we will examine these terms in detail and explain their differences.
The term “biosourced” refers to natural raw materials such as plants, algae, or fungi. Biosourced products can be used to manufacture a wide variety of items, ranging from packaging to textiles to construction materials.
The term “biodegradable” relates to a material’s ability to naturally decompose under the action of microorganisms such as bacteria or fungi. A biodegradable product leaves no toxic residue in the environment. However, it is important to note that the time required for biodegradation depends on many factors such as temperature, humidity, and the presence of oxygen.
The term “compostable” means that the material can be degraded into compost, an organic amendment rich in nutrients for plants. Compostable products are also biodegradable, but they must break down in a specific and controlled environment, such as an industrial composter, to be considered as such.
Understanding the differences between these terms is crucial for making informed choices regarding sustainable development. In the following sections, we will delve into each of these terms to help you better understand their specificities and their impact on the environment.
II. Origin: Bio-based or fossil?
The prefix “bio” has become very common in recent years, but what exactly does it mean when associated with materials? In fact, the prefix “bio” is closely related to the plant or animal origin of a material. A material is said to be “biosourced” when it comes from biological raw materials, i.e. plant or animal-based. Unlike non-biosourced plastic materials, which are made from fossil energy, such as oil, biosourced materials are renewable.
Biosourced materials are very diverse and can be used in a wide variety of applications, ranging from food packaging to automotive parts. Among the most common examples of biosourced materials are corn starch, cellulose, sugarcane, wood, and agricultural waste.
It is important to note that non-biosourced plastic materials pose many environmental problems, such as ocean pollution, greenhouse gas emissions during production, and their non-degradability. In contrast, biosourced materials offer a sustainable and renewable alternative to non-biosourced plastic materials. However, it is important to note that even biosourced materials can pose environmental problems if they are not properly managed at the end of their useful life. That’s why it’s essential to understand the differences between the terms “biodegradable” and “compostable”, which we’ll cover in the following sections.
III. End of life: biodegradable or not?
When we talk about the end of life of a material, biodegradability is an essential criterion to consider. Indeed, a biodegradable material can naturally decompose into simpler elements under the action of living organisms such as bacteria, fungi, etc. This allows for a considerable reduction in waste and minimizes their environmental impact.
Biodégradability is determined based on the duration of the decomposition process. Materials can be classified into three categories: easily biodegradable materials (such as kitchen and garden waste), moderately biodegradable materials (such as dead leaves), and very slowly biodegradable materials (such as plastics).
Then there is compostability. Compostable materials are materials that can be broken down into a stable, hygienic, and fertile compost by microorganisms in the presence of air and moisture.
Unlike biodegradation, which can occur in various environments, compostability is a controlled process in industrial or domestic composting facilities.
It is important to note that not all biodegradable waste is compostable. Compostable waste includes organic waste such as kitchen scraps (peels, leftovers, etc.), garden waste (leaves, branches, etc.), and green waste that can be turned into compost. Non-compostable waste, on the other hand, must be disposed of by other means such as incineration or landfilling.
In summary, it is essential to understand the biodegradability and compostability of materials to make informed choices regarding sustainability and waste management. Biodegradation allows for waste reduction, while compostability offers the possibility of transforming organic waste into useful resources.
IV. Examples: Biodegradable Fossil and Non-Biodegradable Natural
Now that we understand the differences between bio-based, biodegradable, and compostable, it’s interesting to look at specific examples of materials.
PBAT, for example, is a non-bio-based but biodegradable plastic material. It is a copolymer made of adipic acid, terephthalic acid, and butanediol. Unlike traditional plastics, PBAT can break down into microorganisms and carbon dioxide in just a few months. That’s why it’s often found in the form of bags distributed for fruits and vegetables in supermarkets.
On the other hand, PA (Polyamide) is a bio-based but non-biodegradable plastic material. It is derived from the transformation of plant or animal biomass, but its decomposition takes much longer than that of PBAT. PA is used in the production of many products, such as tires, ropes, textiles, and packaging.
These examples illustrate the complexity of the issue of bio-based, biodegradable, and compostable materials, and the need to understand their characteristics and environmental impacts to make informed choices.
Now that you know the differences between the terms “biosourced,” “biodegradable,” and “compostable,” it is important to consider these criteria when choosing your food packaging.
At Wasteless Group, we have developed a range of eco-responsible food packaging made from biosourced, biodegradable, and compostable materials. Our packaging is designed to meet the highest environmental requirements and offer a viable alternative to traditional plastic packaging.
It’s time to make an informed and responsible choice for the environment. We hope this article has helped you better understand the different types of packaging materials and their impact on the environment. Choose environmentally friendly food packaging for a more sustainable future.