What Is The Difference Between Biodegradable & Compostable?

13 February 2023  |  Admin

We’re sure you’ve seen plenty of products labelled as compostable or biodegradable but do you know the difference? In this blog we’ll talk you through the difference between biodegradable and compostable. We’ll also help to explain why it is important to know the difference and why compostable is better than biodegradable too.

What is the difference between biodegradable and compostable?

Simply put, compostable items break down into organic matter over time whereas biodegradable items can only be broken down by living organisms such as bacteria or animals. Below we’ll further detail biodegradable and compostable products to give you a better understanding of each.

Biodegradable products vs compostable products

  • Biodegradable products are only able to be degraded by living organisms, whereas compostable items can be broken down by either living or non-living organisms.
  • Some products labeled “compostable” are not actually biodegradable since they do not have the right properties to break down in compost facilities. It is important to keep in mind that not all products that are labeled as "compostable" are actually biodegradable!
  • Biodegradable products take much longer to break down than compostable products. For instance, it takes about 450 years for a biodegradable plastic bag to decompose.
  • Meanwhile, a compostable plastic bag will completely break down within a few weeks when exposed to microorganisms in a composting facility. Of course, it is possible for a biodegradable product to break down in a composting facility as well, but it depends on the conditions in which the composting takes place. 
  • Some biodegradable products may actually end up creating more problems than they solve if they are incorrectly disposed of. For instance, many plastics labeled "biodegradable" actually contain additives that make them very difficult to break down once they enter the environment. In fact, many of these products may take hundreds or thousands of years to completely break down.
  • Furthermore, many of these products can leach harmful toxins into the environment when they are discarded, which can lead to serious health problems for people and wildlife alike. Because of these issues, it's important to educate yourself about the types of products that are labeled as "biodegradable" before you use them. That way, you can avoid contributing to environmental degradation and protect your health at the same time. 
  • Compostable items and products are a great choice for the environment, as you can compost at home yourself quite easily. Whether you have space in your garden for a composter or you can manage a kitchen compost bin, you can start turning garden and household waste into lovely compost. If you want to know how to start composting, read our guide here.

Compost-friendly products

These days, composting has never been easier as there is a vast range of products that are compost-friendly. These Compost Cleaning Cloths are plastic free and made of renewable sources, so once they’ve reached the end of their cleaning life you can pop them in your compost.


You can also get your hands on Compostable Food Bags, Compostable Garden Waste Bags and Compostable Kitchen Roll along with many other compostable items from our store.


Overall, it's probably best to opt for products that are certified as "compostable" rather than those that are labeled as "biodegradable." With compostable products you can rest assured knowing that items that you buy will break down much quicker and much more naturally than biodegradable items.


That being said, if you are choosing between an item that cannot be broken down and will end up sitting in landfill, then a biodegradable option is better. Just be careful that you’re not being greenwashed into buying items that claim to be better for the planet due to being biodegradable.