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What’s the difference between compostable and biodegradable packaging?

There are a few differences, but first it helps to explain the different types of biodegradable packaging, which can be either plant-based or oil-based.

 

Oil-based biodegradable packaging

 

  • Made in the same way as plastic, with additional chemicals added to make it degrade when it's exposed to the right conditions.
  • It breaks down into small plastic fragments (microplastics) at the end of its life and can't naturally return to the environment.  
  • It cannot be recycled with mainstream plastics due to the chemicals that have been added.
  • Closer to non-recyclable plastic packaging than compostable packaging.

 

Plant-based biodegradable packaging

 

  • Similar to compostable packaging, and the only big difference is the time it takes for the packaging to break down. 
  • Certified compostable packaging breaks down in about six months, while biodegradable packaging takes longer, typically well over a year.