Biodegradable Packaging vs Compostable Packaging - DON'T get Greenwashed

The words "biodegradable" and "compostable" do not mean the same thing. Make sure you know the difference so that you don't get greenwashed.



00:03:07 - Uploaded by Viv Biz Club | Green Food Packaging on August 5, 2010

What's up everybody! We're coming at you here live from the Viv offices in San Francisco and we're here to tell you one thing - that is one thing only - and that is that THE WORD BIODEGRADABLE DOES NOT MEAN THE SAME THING AS THE WORD COMPOSTABLE.

We're going to walk you through 3 things: 1) the definition of the word compostable, 2) the definition of the word biodegradable, and 3) how to make sure that when you're buying food packaging that's marked compostable or biodegradable, you're not being greenwashed.

Here it is.

The word compostable has a definition that is strictly controlled by the scientific standards ASTM D6400, ASTM D6868, and EN13432. It means 3 things. #1) Biodegradability - It means that 60-90% of your product is going to break down within 180 days. #2) Disintegration - 90% of your product is going to break down into (itty bitty) pieces that are 2mm in size of less. #3) Eco-Toxicity - That means that when that product breaks down in a commercial composting facility it is not going to leave heavy metals that are toxic to the soil beyond that of a control group.

The word biodegradable on the other hand, simply means that a product is going to break down over a period of time by natural processes. It could mean any period of time, it could mean tens of year, it could mean thousands of years. Quite literally, this plastic bag is biodegradable - at some point, eventually it's going to break down. This plastic lunch pail is biodegradable. At some point, way down the road, lord knows when, it's going to break down.

What does this means for food packaging? Well, you want to be looking for products that are specifically marked compostable. There are brands out there that are using the word biodegradable, and they're using it to greenwash their products and essentially trick you into purchasing them. One of our favorites (/ least favorites) is Taterware.

Not sure if you can get a good look at this, but it says biodegradable right on this fork. We've been working with businesses in San Francisco who have been specifically alerted by SF Environment and by the composting facility outside of San Francisco that they don't take these forks. They're biodegradable. It's a meaningless term. They're not going to compost in a commercial composting facility.

You need to look for products that specifically say that they're compostable. If it's cups, you'll see a green ring and compostable on that cup. If it's on a fork, you'll see the word compostable on that fork. You need to look for that or you need to see if they're BPI certified. BPI makes sure that these products uphold to the standards that we talked about a little bit ago.

So that's it. Compostable vs Biodegradable. Make sure you're buying compostable, and let's get rid of this biodegradable garbage!

Tags: Biodegradable, Compostable, Biodegradable Packaging, Compostable Packaging, Greenwash, Greenwashing, ASTM D6400, BPI, Biodegradable Products Institute, Biodegradable Food Packaging, Compostable Food Packaging, Taterware, PerfecTouch Hot Cups



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