Know the difference between Compostable and Oxo-Biodegradable
Doppelgangers are exciting but that’s not the case with bioplastics! When it comes to sustainable alternatives to plastic, today the industry is brimming with misleading titles and harmful byproducts parading as ‘environment friendly’. Terms like Compostable, BioPlastic, Green Plastic, Biodegradable Plastic and so on can feel overwhelming for even professionals to decipher, let alone unsuspecting customers and corporations who mean well with their initiatives. Two such terminologies being ‘compostable’ and ‘oxo Biodegradable’ require a closer look to truly understand what their respective benefits are and which properties set them apart from one another.
Decoding The Term ‘Compostable’…
As a scientific rule, Compostable materials are completely natural and have the ability to break down in a natural environment. The byproduct of this process is then used to fertilise soil and enhance its composition to produce better quality vegetables and crops. Materials like coffee filters, vegetable peels, dry leaves, egg shells etc are compostable in nature.
Have we been misunderstanding Oxo Biodegradability?
“The term Oxo Biodegradable often gets mixed up with Biodegradable and subsequently with compostable.”
While all compostable materials are biodegradable in nature, not all biodegradable materials may turn into compost! Biodegradability is the process of materials breaking down completely into molecules of water, carbon dioxide and biomass ( the latter if one is dealing with bioplastics or other bio based substances). Materials that are neither bio based nor compostable in nature also have the ability to biodegrade. The term Oxo Biodegradable often gets mixed up with Biodegradable and subsequently with compostable.
“On a molecular level, the breaking down of oxo biodegradable materials like plastic for instance, leaves behind microplastics in the environment.“
Oxo Biodegradable materials are not completely biodegradable in nature even though they break down into smaller matter. On a molecular level, the breaking down of oxo biodegradable materials like plastic for instance, leaves behind microplastics in the environment due to the presence of cobalt salts and other chemical additives in its compositions. These are additive to kickstart the decomposition process and yet complete biodegradability cannot be achieved. This is because Oxo Biodegradable materials are essentially upto 95% plastic with only 1%-5% additives that are present to help jumpstart the process of decomposition.
Compostable Vs Oxo Biodegradable Bags
“Compostable bags will decompose completely, leaving behind a byproduct that will save cost and help the ecosystem. Oxo Biodegradable Bags will cause more harm than good.”
It will take a nuanced approach for corporations to truly gauge the implications of labels like compostable bags and oxo biodegradable bags. On one hand compostable bags will decompose completely, leaving behind a byproduct that will save cost and help the ecosystem. On the other hand, Oxo Biodegradable Bags will cause more harm than good. Whilst naive customers will believe that they have made a sustainable purchase, they will also be unbeknownst to the correct way of disposing off such a harmful product which would pollute the environment with thousands of micro plastics for years to come.
Compostable Bags – The Good
“Compostable Bags don’t only help keep microplastics and other toxins out of the ecosystem but also help corporations reduce their carbon footprint, boost image and save money on compost and disposal costs.”
Compostable Bags are usually made from bio based materials like palm leaves, starch and wood pulp. They also come with varying labels and certifications indicating whether they can be safely decomposed at home or in a larger municipality unit where the right environment can help the material decompose faster. Compostable Bags don’t only help keep microplastics and other toxins out of the ecosystem but also help corporations reduce their carbon footprint, boost image and save money on compost and disposal costs.
While Compostable Packaging may seem like just another substitute for oxo biodegradable plastic, the two have drastically different impacts on human life and the operations of any business. It is wise for corporations to read the fine print and do a deep dive into the true meaning of such labels to truly make a difference in their services and brand values.