Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the differences between biodegradable and biobased plastics?

Biobased plastics are made from renewable resources instead of non-renewable petroleum based resources.
These renewable resources can include corn, potatoes, rice, soy, sugarcane, wheat, and vegetable oil. Biobased plastics are made by creating plastic polymers from these materials, through either chemical or biological processes.

While biobased materials can be biodegradable or compostable, not all of them are. And, not all biodegradable plastics are biobased.

Biodegradable plastic degrades through exposure to naturally occurring microorganisms. When classifying a plastic as a biodegradable, the environment and timeframe must be specified; otherwise the claim is rendered pointless due to an array of variations. All organic matter will eventually biodegrade. This includes traditional petroleum-based plastics. However, the rate of biodegradation of different organic materials can vary on an exponential scale.

 

2.      Compostable, biodegradable and bio-based: what is the difference?

So what is the difference between compostable, biodegradable and bio-based? When a material is compostable, it means that the material can be broken down in an industrial composting plant for at least 95%, within 12 weeks. In that instance, it complies with the EN 13432 standard for compostable materials and may, therefore, be called compostable. Examples thereof include materials that are made from starch

Biodegradable plastics are plastics that can be decomposed by the action of living organisms, usually microbes, into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass.Biodegradable plastics are commonly produced with renewable raw materials, micro-organisms, petrochemicals, or combinations of all three

While the words “bioplastic” and “biodegradable plastic” are similar, they are not synonymous. Not all bioplastics are biodegradable

A material is biodegradable when fungi and bacteria can biologically degrade the material. The time it takes before something is broken down depends on the circumstances set out against time. For example, wood, cotton and cork are biodegradable, but it takes years before these materials are broken down completely

Bioplastics are plastic materials produced from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, straw, woodchips, sawdust, recycled food waste, etc. Bioplastic can be made from agricultural by-products and also from used plastic bottles and other containers using microorganisms

Organic product: biodegradable or compostable?

So, is an organic product biodegradable or compostable? This depends on the time it takes for it to be broken down completely. In practice, there are organic products that are compostable (they need a maximum of 12 weeks to be broken down and may, therefore, be disposed of in the green waste stream) and products that are biodegradable (they need a longer time to be broken down and may, therefore, not be deposited in the green waste stream).