The consumption of single-use plastics, which in large quantities become waste that ends up in the sea, is a reality that everyone should act upon.
When an ordinary citizen decides to reduce his or her footprint on the planet, but has no knowledge of the eco-friendly movement, he or she encounters barriers that can make that “conversion” a bit of a bumpy ride.
Terms, regulations, materials, options, prices, recycling process; it is only part of the theory that involves all this movement.
However, there is something very basic that you must know how to differentiate from day zero of your new and better version: What is compostable and what is the meaning of biodegradable.
Before going on to analyse the meaning of compostable and biodegradable, we must be clear that they are not synonymous with recycling.
Recycling is a process by which a material is transformed to be used again.
An important element is that recycling requires human participation.
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What is biodegradable?
Let’s start with the simplest definition.
Biodegradable is a compound word and by dividing it we will obtain the meaning of the word.
Bio is a prefix that, according to the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (DRAE), means life and living organism. The second meaning indicates that it refers to an element that respects the environment, which is biological.
On the other hand, the DRAE indicates that degradation is the transformation of a complex element into one with a much simpler structure. Another meaning of the same dictionary is to reduce or wear away the properties of something.
In this way we can conclude that biodegradable is a characteristic of a substance that sees its structure simplified by biological action, that is, without the need for human intervention.
Among the biodegradable materials that we frequently consume, we can list: straw, cardboard, paper, cotton, wool, linen, silk and wood.
All those materials, if left free in any place, will be degraded in a natural way until they finally become nutrients that will join nature without problems.
Compostable What is that?
A compostable material is one that can be turned into organic fertilizer, also known as compost.
Unlike biodegradable materials, for the process to be possible, human participation is required through industrial processing plants.
In other words, the degradation of a compostable material will not occur naturally.
When degrading a compostable material, carbon dioxide, biomass, water and inorganic compounds are produced at the same rate.
Legislation that regulates biodegradable and compostable material
In full force, there are the two norms that regulate compostable and biodegradable materials.
If you wish to know more about them, consult the regulations:
- UNE-EN 14995:2007 – Plastics. Evaluation of compostability. Test programme and specifications.
- UNE-EN 13432:2001 – Packaging. Requirements for packaging that can be recovered by composting and biodegradation. Test programme and evaluation criteria for the final acceptance of the packaging.
Finally, you are invited to watch this video of We are all recyclingThe following is an example of the differences between biodegradable and compostable.
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