Understanding Eco-Friendly Products

With the EU single-use plastics ban set to take a grip in 2021, food and drink retailers are now scrambling to make the switch from traditional disposable products to eco-friendly options. But when searching for eco-friendly products for your business you may come across some terms that sound similar, such as ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’. It’s important to know the difference if you’re looking to completely eliminate waste because their construction impacts on how you dispose of them. To discover more about the differences between biodegradable and compostable and how your business can use eco-friendly disposables to go zero waste, read on.

What Is Zero Waste?

Zero Waste is a philosophy that encourages the redesign of products by following sustainable life cycles. The end goal of the zero waste approach is to prevent discarded materials being sent to landfills and incinerators. Instead, products are reused, recycled or processed using methods such as composting. At home, many people are now taking a stand against excessive waste, so by taking an eco-friendly approach to managing your businesses waste you’re helping them to extend their fight.

Biodegradable, Compostable, and Degradable: What’s the Difference?

So if you’re making the next step towards a zero waste business you’ll be glad to hear there are many alternatives to traditional plastic cups, disposable plates, bowls, and flatware. Not to mention eco-friendly alternatives like paper straws or even our REPA straws, which are just like plastic straws but made from seashells.

But, you will notice that some products are labelled as biodegradable and others as compostable. The difference relates to the types of material, what conditions are needed to for them to deteriorate, how long it takes for them to break down after being thrown away, and the overall environmental impact they make. Let’s take a look at the different types of eco-friendly products to help you make the best choice for your business.

What Is Biodegradable?

Biodegradable refers to a product breaking down into natural elements by organisms like bacteria and fungi. In a way everything is biodegradable, but some things take thousands of years for them to biodegrade. Here are some benefits of biodegradable products:

  • Biodegradable products break down faster than other types of products.
  • They aren’t harmful to the environment, instead, they break down into carbon dioxide, water vapor, and organic material.
  • Usually, they’re made from sustainable materials and organic by-products, such as corn starch or sugarcane.

Biodegradable Products and Landfills

Biodegradable products are an eco-friendly option for people running food and drink business but there is a downside to using them. If biodegradable products are dumped into landfills, they become buried. The bacteria which breaks down these products cannot survive being under all the rubbish because of the lack of oxygen. This means that biodegradable products break down without oxygen, anaerobically, which creates methane which is bad for the environment.

The best way to dispose of biodegradable products is to dispose of them in a commercial compost heap or send them to a recycling plant.

What Is Compostable?

Compostable products break down into natural elements but only when certain conditions are met. Examples of compostable material are corn starch, sugarcane or PLA plastic. There are two main benefits of using compostable products over biodegradable options:

  • They break down much faster than biodegradable products, as quickly as 90 days;
  • they also break down into nutrient-rich products, which is good for the planet.

How to Dispose of Compostable Products

Compostable products need to be thrown away into a compost heap. There are many industrial compost heaps across the country, which are rich in microorganisms and reach high temperatures, which allow products to break down quickly. Alternatively, you could encourage your customers to take home their wares and compost at home. Compostable products do not break down easily in a standard landfil so these products should not be thrown in the trash.

Compostable products should also not be recycled, so it’s important to inform your customers about how to dispose of their waste properly.