Degradable vs Biodegradable vs Compostable
Why choose Certified Compostable over Degradable or Biodegradable?
Quite simply, certified compostable is the only option of these three that breaks down into natural components and does not leave harmful microplastics in the environment and food chain.
Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, which can be very confusing, and often when used in a commercial setting it can be what is referred to as “green-washing”, where it is claimed that just because a product is labeled as eco, enviro, or bio that it is good for the environment when often it is not.
It’s important to understand the basic differences between these commonly used terms, so that everyone can make informed decisions on product purchases, and the impact they want to have on the environment:
Certified Compostable: Made from certified compostable natural plant materials in the form of fermented plant starch derived from corn, cassava, sugarcane or sugar beet pulp, these are often waste materials sourced from farming and vegetable industries, and are commonly referred to as PLA (Polylactic acid or polylactide) which is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester made from renewable biomass. As these products are free from harmful plastics such as Polypropylene, Polyethylene, Polystyrene and PVC, they break down to their natural cellulose beginnings, leave virtually undetectable levels in the soil, and are deemed “worm safe” with no micro plastic residues left behind.
Biodegradable: When it comes to bin liners and dog waste disposal bags in particular, Biodegradable usually means that the bags are made from a mixture of bioplastics (PLA) and harmful plastics such as Polypropylene, Polyethylene, Polystyrene and PVC. However the plastic they are made from may be thinner than regular bin liners or dog waste disposal bags, may have some kind of additive that aids in degradation, and may also be aided in the breakdown process by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. This means that harmful microplastics will be left in the environment and most likely find their way into the food chain.
Degradable: Almost everything is degradable. Degradable generally simply means something will in time degrade. In the context of bin liners and dog waste disposal bags, degradable liners and bags are still made from harmful plastics such as Polypropylene, Polyethylene, Polystyrene and PVC, however the plastic they are made from may be thinner than regular bin liners and bags or may have some kind of additive that aids in degradation. Once again this means that harmful microplastics will be left in the environment and most likely find their way into the food chain.
The bottom line is that both biodegradable (including oxo-degradable) and degradable are still made with harmful plastics, and though designed to break down faster will merely break down to smaller plastics that will exist and pollute our environment indefinitely.
Ultimately using no bin liner is the best option for the environment, and if you are able to separate your waste completely there really is no need for a bin liner at all. However we realise that this is not always possible for everyone, so if you do need to use a “plastic” liner, then its best to make sure your bin liner is certified 100% compostable.