Comparing Compostable, Biodegradable, And Recyclable Plastics: Watch Out For Green Washing!

More and more businesses are selling their goods with environmentally friendly design and production alternatives. The idea of green marketing has allowed businesses to gain leverage and penetrate the niche market of conscientious consumers. Understanding what each of these means will change the way we make choices about consumption and become more conscious of the footprint we create. The waste that we produce from our use, when it is environmentally friendly, can be compostable, recyclable or biodegradable, and is a good alternative to landfills and waste management.

It's very common for us to use these words inter-relatively. These are easier to use in conjunction since all three concepts are compatible with their basic principle of sustainability. But the key difference is how long they are viable and what the implications of such systems are. Why this affects us is that it decides how we manage our waste and influences consumer decisions.

How can composting be useful and how can you make your own compost?

Sometimes the waste we generate can be organic and easily degradable. So, instead of dumping them in the bins that reach the landfills, the construction of compost is an alternative, sustainable way. When the time of decomposition and conversion into minute organic matter takes about six to eight weeks, the waste can be labeled as compostable. Such contaminants require special conditions and equipment to be fully decomposed. This helps reduce organic waste by encouraging households to make their own compost, adding rich nutrients to their home gardens. A major barrier to the domestic waste management process is that more than half of the resources are geared towards segregation and transport and much less towards recycling and recovery. As a result, composting helps us eliminate waste at source and proves to be an effective alternative to landfill and waste management.

Making compost at home is very easy, but it requires the utmost dedication. The ideal compost must be nitrogen and carbon-rich waste. The higher the carbon content, the faster they can decompose. Carbon-rich items include seeds, egg shells, dried leaves, peels, wood ash and so on, while nitrogen-rich products include green leaves, food scraps and manure. Different components break down at different rates, but eventually they break down–the smaller the pieces, the faster they break down. A compost can be created using different layers of dried and wet waste to make the process more effective. Your compost may consist of food and yard waste and may be installed in the yard itself or composting bins on the basis of the available resources.

What are biodegradable waste and how are companies involved in the production of biodegradable waste?

Biodegradable is also a method of decomposing waste spontaneously but without a specific timeframe. Such contaminants take longer to break down and the distance used by businesses to market their products is biodegradable. There is no specific structure to follow or a strict timeline within which to decompose. Most businesses hide under this veil to label their products as biodegradable even if the decomposable content is as low as 30%. Because they take their own time to decompose, they do not need any form of chemical additives to support the process that makes it less harmful to the environment.

If a biodegradable spoon is intended to be 70 per cent organic and 30 per cent plastic, it can still be sold and packaged as biodegradable. The key lies in these minor details, since most of these biodegradable products do not decompose when they reach landfill sites because of the lack of adequate oxygen.

How is recycling helping us out?

The goal of recycling is to reduce waste in landfills. By doing so, we are in a position to create new benefits for the products by finding alternative ways of reusing them. Every product that is recycled can be made into the same product or can be made into a lower quality product. Plastics are not the only items that can be recycled–aluminum, steel bottles, paper, batteries, and even our clothes. In many production processes, the raw materials used are recycled inputs instead of new inputs.

The environmental debate is about whether recycling is a sustainable solution, since the recycling process itself places a strain on resources and energy. It is, however, a better alternative to landfills and waste management, let alone the cost of producing newer ones and their environmental impact.

The common goal of all three objectives is to manage waste efficiently and move towards a more sustainable, green society. We should do everything we can–compost, biodegradation, recycling–to eliminate waste from landfills and oceans. So the next time you buy a product, whether it's food, books, clothing, it's up to you to review the packaging information to see what effect your purchase has on the environment. In this decision, let's remember to keep recycling as our last choice and pledge to go to #PlasticNeutral!