Quickly put: Yes, there is! But it may not be what you expected.
Compostable is the ability for a material to breakdown organically and be returned to the soil as a natural plant fertilizer; this organic matter can be many things, such as: food scraps, coffee grounds, yard waste, etc. The process happens in a controlled space that allows the decomposition to occur within four to twelve weeks (depending on the type of material). When returned to the Earth, the compost carries nutrients like phosphorus, nitrogen, and oxygen which aid the soil as natural fertilizer.
To see if the product you’re buying is compostable, check the label! You’ll be looking or a BPI label. This certification ensures that the product you are purchasing is true to their message of recycling.
An example of a transparent, compostable company is “If You Care”. This company can be found in many countries around the world and their products are all verified with one or more certifications.
TRYING TO COMPOST AT HOME?
It’s easier than you’d think; depending on space available a compost can be kept indoors or outdoors.
1. All you need is a bucket with a lid.
2. Poke enough holes in the lid to ensure proper aeration and fill the first quarter of the bucket with a bit of shredded newspaper and some good sized leaves.
3. After that, place in some soil and fill that to about the halfway mark.
4. Any food scraps – banana peels, apple cores, you name it – drop it in and mix it around.
5. Treat the compost with a little bit of water; the pile should NOT be soaked – it should be damp/moist.
Within 60 to 90 days you should have yourself some nutrient filled fertilizer for gardening, indoor/outdoor planting, and foliage.
NOTE: Some items to avoid when composting: meat, dairy, and fats or oils – these products tend to create odor and attract pesky pests like rodents or flies.
Biodegradable is the ability for a material to decompose with the aid of bacteria or living organisms; the product will usually breakdown into certain base substances such as water, carbon dioxide, and methane. Many things can be considered biodegradable, even non-natural things such as plastic.
Always check labels and websites to ensure the companies that you’re purchasing from are up to your sustainability standards.
While biodegradable products do have the ability to breakdown, most do not carry the ability to aid in giving nutrients back to the Earth. And worse off, sometimes, these products – if not properly made – tend to leave metallic residues behind.
Besides that, without the proper conditions to aid in controlling temperature and humidity, these biodegradable items will take a drastically longer time to decompose than compostable ones. While composting, at most, can take up to two years – when done properly – biodegradable items, such as plastics, can take upwards to decades or even longer.
Landfills are not considered proper environments for biodegradable or compostable goods, for they do not allow for the proper conditions necessary to create an essential biodegradable space. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 50% of the amount of garbage accumulated still goes into landfills, today.
Meaning, even if your products CAN breakdown easier, quicker, and more efficient with a controlled environment, they are still being stored improperly. This disservice is a contributing factor to our pollution problem.
While all compostable goods are biodegradable, not all biodegradable goods are compostable! More so, as a whole, we still have a long way to go when it comes to more beneficial ways to getting rid of our trash. It’s up to us to live more sustainable lives. Sometimes to do so, all it takes is a bit of knowledge.
At least, now, you know the difference!