The key difference between biodegradable and compostable is that biodegradable is a term that refers to material like organic matter that can be broken down by the action of microorganisms and other living organisms while compostable is a term that refers to material that can be used to make compost.
The environment is a complex system comprised of living and non-living matters. Classification of environmental resources is a broad topic as it depends on various factors. Degradation is one type of a key factor that is important in categorizing environmental resources and their recyclability. Degradation can be further subcategorized into several categories such as biodegradable and non-biodegradable, rapid degradation and slow degradation, etc. Most biodegradable wastes are compostable.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Biodegradable
3. What is Compostable
4. Similarities Between Biodegradable and Compostable
5. Side by Side Comparison – Biodegradable vs Compostable in Tabular Form
What is Biodegradable?
Biodegradable, as the name implies, refers to the materials that can be broken down by the reactions of living organisms. Bacteria and fungi mainly carry out biodegradation in the environment. Generally, these material have plant or animal origin. Some common examples of biodegradable materials are food waste, green waste (plant materials), manure and municipal solid waste. Some plastics are also biodegradable, but most plastics are not biodegradable.
Bacteria and fungi have the natural ability to degrade, convert or accumulate a huge range of organic substances. Some organisms degrade organic matter aerobically while some organisms carry out it under anaerobic conditions. However, the final product after the process heavily depends on the reaction conditions.
Biodegradation is an environmentally and economically important process. There are many advantages of the biodegradation process. Preparation of bio-fuel has become a novel technique to substitute energy requirement. Moreover, composting is another application of biodegradation. However, biodegradation sometimes creates several environmental problems such as releasing bad odours under anaerobic conditions.
What is Compostable?
Composting is a new trend in modern agriculture. Compostable is the ability of materials to convert into compost. It depends on the characteristics of the given material and the provided conditions. Internal characters such as Carbon: Nitrogen ratio, water content, and other chemicals affect the composting process. Furthermore, external environmental conditions, such as temperature, aeration, and soil microorganisms, also affect composting. Compostable materials are similar to biodegradable organic matter, but commonly end up becoming a fertilizer or some other soil amendment.
The composting process consists of several steps. There are different methods involving compost preparation based on the steps used. Some methods pile up wastes until decay while some other methods facilitate the same process by keeping them inside a pit made in the ground or compost barrels. Generally, it will take about four to five weeks or even more to make composts. The compostable materials have to be watered, shaded, mixed, aerated and closely monitored. Moreover, the carbon-nitrogen ratio of the mixture can be adjusted by fortifying with those nutrients. The breakdown of materials mainly occurs due to the activities of bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, and other microorganisms. Furthermore, some macro-organisms such as earthworms are also involved in the composting process.
Compost contains a high content of nutrients. Hence, it is useful as an organic fertilizer in agriculture. It can improve soil fertility and texture. Furthermore, it enhances the soil microbial population and aeration.
What are the Similarities Between Biodegradable and Compostable?
- Biodegradable and compostable materials are environmental friendly materials.
- The action of microorganisms and some other living organism is beneficial in both processes.
- These substances recycle organic matter and return nutrients back to the environment.
- Moreover, these are highly useful in agriculture.
What is the Difference Between Biodegradable and Compostable?
The term biodegradable refers to the materials that can be broken down by the action of microorganisms and other living organisms while the term compostable refers to the materials that can be used to make compost under special composting conditions. Thus, this is the key difference between biodegradable and compostable. Furthermore, biodegradation occurs under normal environmental conditions, while compost making occurs under controlled conditions.
The below infographic summarizes the difference between biodegradable and compostable in tabular form.
Summary – Biodegradable vs Compostable
Biodegradable materials have the ability to break down by the action of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, etc. while compostable materials have the ability to break down under special composting conditions in composting piles in order to make compost. Compostable materials are similar to biodegradable materials. Both involve the action of microorganisms. However, biodegradation occurs within landfills, while composting occurs in compost piles. This is a summary of the difference between biodegradable and compostable.