Difference Between Degradable, Biodegradable And Compostable

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Last Updated on July 1, 2022

Ideally, plastics come in different forms, such as degradable, biodegradable, and compostable. Each of those has distinct features that set it apart from the others. So, below are the differences between degradable, biodegradable, and compostable.

Plastics have helped many households in packaging their foods from the store to the home. Even at home, it empowers them to wrap perishable foods with plastics before storing them in the freezer. The hassle in the entire affair is the disposing of these plastics when they’ve served their purposes.

What is Biodegradable Plastic?

Plastics at one time or the other are broken down after some time. In the case of biodegradable plastics, their decomposition is triggered by living things, such as bacteria and fungi. It’s worth mentioning that the keyword “degradable” implies that the plastics in question would be “broken down.”

On the other hand, the formulation of this type of plastics (biodegradable) is different from the conventional derivation from petroleum. Instead, it is made from plant-based materials, such as wheat starch, corn, and potato.

What is Biodegradable Plastic

The Process of Biodegradation

This is perhaps one of the most natural methods of breaking down plastics. Ideally, the disintegration of the plastics and further breaking down into smaller pieces leads to secure processing by bacteria and fungi that are found in the environment.

Nevertheless, specific conditions must be met for the success of that. The first is the exposure of the (plastic) bag to UV light. The other is the attainment of a 50 degrees Celsius that is needed to facilitate the degradation.

Read more about Making a Plastic Bag out of Wrapping Paper

Degradable Plastic

The degradable plastics are somewhat opposite of the former – the biodegradable plastics. Also known as “oxo-degradable plastics,” biodegradable plastics are not broken down by living organisms, such as fungi and bacteria. Instead, they’re broken down by the chemicals used during their manufacturing.

The implication is that the chemical additives used when manufacturing the degradable plastics bags are responsible for breaking it down. Also, the process is faster than that of conventional plastic bags.

Points to Note about Degradable Plastics

On the flip side, the degradable plastics cannot be categorized or paired alongside the biodegradable or the compostable. It’s worth pointing out that it has some adverse effects. That is tenable because they do not necessarily break down to the last. Instead, they become thinner pieces of microplastic. In the end, the degradable plastics do not “return to the earth” but rather become invisible litters that create problems in both the eco-system and the environment.

Compostable Plastic

Compostable plastics are undoubted, one of the most confusing of the different kinds of plastics. One may be misled to think that they could be thrown into the regular compost bins. It might interest you to know that compostable plastics are also biodegradable, but that’s tenable under specific conditions.

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Requirements for Decomposition

Some of the requirements needed for a hassle decomposition process are a specific mix of gases, the right temperature, the necessary microorganisms, and a particular environment, which is usually a composting facility.

Compostable Plastic

Above all, you should note that compostable plastic bags are also made from plant-based materials. Therefore, those materials would return to the base organic components after the composting facility has processed them. 

Plastic-Free Alternatives that can be Biodegradable

It’s now clear that biodegradable plastic bags are better off than the others because they don’t pose many dangers to the environment after the degradation. Besides, the flexibility of the degradation (through living organisms) makes the entire process easier. If you’re considering that, then the biodegradable shopping bag could be the perfect fit you would need to keep things going without hassles.

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