What Is The Difference Between Recyclable, Biodegradable, And Compostable, And Which Is Best For The Environment?

What Is The Difference Between Recyclable, Biodegradable, And Compostable, And Which Is Best For The Environment?

Terms such as recyclable, biodegradable and compostable are commonly used in reference to more eco-friendly packaging options. However, although these three words are frequently used together, often interchangeably, they actually refer to very different processes.  This blog will hopefully help you navigate through deciphering each term, learning disposal techniques, and understanding which is better for our environment. 🌍

These are used materials that can be converted from waste to reusable materials. Some materials like aluminium, glass, metal, and plastics can be converted into new products (often endlessly). While, materials like cardboard may be recycled 5-7 times – as the fibres becomes shorter for every recycling. Recycling helps to keep waste out of the landfill and gives it another life! 🙌

How to dispose: check for the packaging to see if the product is tagged recyclable and put in the relevant bin according to your local authority. Then it can be taken to a recovery facility, where they will be sorted, cleaned, and processed into new materials.  ♻

These materials decompose in a natural and environmentally friendly way. It breaks down into different elements via the action of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. Products labelled as biodegradable usually break down quickly or between six to nine months. While some can take a longer period, biodegradable plastic bags may take decades to break down fully. Thus, some deposits may or may not harm the soil and atmosphere.  

How to dispose: biodegradable products should be disposed of in commercial compost heaps, recycling plant sites, or transported to a biogas industry where they can be used to generate electricity because when disposed of in a landfill, they can create harmful methane gas. 

The word compost may sound somewhat familiar if you are into gardening. Compostable are products, usually non-animal food, garden waste, plants, and other organic materials (bagasse, cornstarch, or PLA plastic). Compostable break down much faster than biodegradables (less than 100 days) into nutrient-rich elements that contribute to the quality of the soil which is a win-win! 🌱

How to dispose: compostable products should not be recycled; instead, they should be disposed of in a compost heap. Keep in mind that breaking down will become difficult if compostable are trashed in landfills/bins. Compost heaps are already rich in microorganisms, and they snowball to high temperatures, which helps speed up the decomposition process.

So...Recyclable, Biodegradable, and Compostable...which is best for the environment?

 If you asked us to rank these options as 'most eco-friendly', then we'd plump for compostable, recyclable, and lastly biodegradable.

💚 Compostable items, if properly disposed of, will break down completely and can them be used to grow more resources.

💚 Recyclable items can be turned into raw materials that can then be used to make new things without needing to create completely new resources.

💚 Biodegradable options will eventually break down, but we don't know when and there is no plan to use them for any additional benefit.

Lastly, Recycle Now is a fabulous resource chock-full of hints, tips and information - we highly recommend having a look if you would like further info or advice!

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