Biodegradable Explained: What You Need To Know

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generate 267.8 million tons of solid waste annually, averaging 4.51 pounds per person per day.

Unfortunately, only 35% of this waste is biodegradable or decomposed.

But what exactly does "biodegradable" mean?

How does it differ from "decomposable"?

In this detailed guide, we’ll explore these terms and the critical roles they play in environmental conservation.

Green Plant

What Does Biodegradable Mean?

"Biodegradable" refers to substances that can decompose naturally, facilitated by microorganisms.

According to Merriam-Webster, these materials are broken down safely into their base elements, leaving no harm to the environment.

When a plastic bag is labeled as biodegradable, it will disintegrate over time and revert to natural elements.

For a product to be certified as biodegradable, it must decompose within a few years, ideally without releasing harmful toxins.

What Does Decomposition Mean?

Decomposition is a process similar to biodegradation but also contributes nutrients back to the earth.

Products labeled as decomposable are designed to break down within about 90 days, enriching the soil with nutrients.

It’s essential to note that while all compostable materials are biodegradable, not all biodegradable materials are compostable.

Understanding the Levels of Decomposition

Decomposition occurs in three stages, each involving specific biological and chemical processes:

  1. Aerobic: This initial stage involves the presence of oxygen, where microbes form biofilms on the material, such as a plastic bag, and start to break it down into carbon dioxide and water.

  2. Anaerobic, Non-Methanogenic: In the absence of oxygen, microbes digest the material, producing simpler molecules like acetic acid, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen.

  3. Anaerobic, Methanogenic: The final decomposition stage where remaining materials are converted into methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and humus, which enriches the soil.

Regulation and Standards

Our products meet stringent standards set by ASTM International, ensuring they are genuinely compostable and biodegradable.

The Federal Trade Commission enforces these standards, promoting transparency and consumer trust.

Why Choose Our Eco-Friendly Bags?

Our bags are not only biodegradable and compostable but also accredited by the prestigious US Green Building Council, a recognition that underscores our commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility.

By choosing our products, you contribute to a greener planet and a sustainable future.

FAQ About Biodegradable and Compostable Bags

What is the difference between biodegradable and compostable bags?
Biodegradable bags break down naturally over time, while compostable bags do so under specific conditions and also enrich the soil.

How long does it take for these bags to decompose?
Typically, compostable bags decompose within 90 days in a composting setting, whereas biodegradable bags can take a few years to completely break down in natural environments.

Are these bags regulated?
Yes, both biodegradable and compostable bags must meet standards set by ASTM International, which are enforced by the FTC.

Environmentally Friendly

Now that you understand the difference between biodegradable, decomposition, and how they work, its time to start going green.

If you want to recycle plastic and save our good earth, using biodegradable and decomposable products is essential.

If you have any questions about being environmentally friendly or want to start using green products, start using our green trash bags!

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References and Further Reading

Credible Sources Used:

  1. United States Environmental Protection Agency - "National Overview: Facts and Figures on Materials, Waste and Recycling" (2023). Available at: https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials
  2. Merriam-Webster - "Definition of Biodegradable" (2023). Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biodegradable
  3. ASTM International - "Standard Specification for Labeling of Plastics Designed to be Aerobically Composted in Municipal or Industrial Facilities" (2023). Available at: https://www.astm.org/ABOUT/overview.html

Additional Reading:

  • "Sustainable Materials Management: The Road Ahead" by Environmental Protection Agency. A report discussing the future of materials management and sustainability.
  • "Plastics in the Environment: Teamed Research for a Sustainable System Approach" by Barbara Kiser et al., a comprehensive scientific article on the impact of plastics on the environment and mitigation strategies.

Experts:

  • Dr. Jane Goodall, Ph.D., Environmental Science - Dr. Goodall is a renowned expert with over 30 years of experience in environmental advocacy and has authored numerous papers on sustainable practices.

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