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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 is made in the same way as plastic, with additional chemicals added to make it degrade when it's exposed to the right conditions. Rather than fully decomposing, it breaks down into small plastic fragments (microplastics) at the end of its life and can't naturally return to the environment. This type of packaging also can't be recycled with mainstream plastics due to the chemicals that have been added. Overall, it's closer to non-recyclable plastic packaging than compostable packaging.

Plant-based biodegradable packaging is more 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.