Biodegradable vs Compostable vs Recyclable

Biodegradable. Compostable. Recyclable.

These are terms that are increasingly used by companies to describe their product. But does choosing one over the other make a real difference? Well, to be able to make a more informed decision for your next purchase, here is the breakdown of what each term means!


Biodegradable products are those that are capable of being decomposed with the help of bacteria and other organisms. As compared to non-biodegradable products, they do not require any use of chemicals for decomposition. Hence, they are less environmentally damaging.


Compostable is being defined by scientific standards ASTM D6400, ASTM D6868 and EN13432 as having the following characteristics:

  1. Biodegradability – 60-90% of the product is going to break down within 180 days
  2. Disintegration – 90% of the product is going to break down into pieces that are 2mm in size of less
  3. Eco-Toxicity – When that product breaks down in a commercial composting facility it is not going to leave heavy metals that are toxic to the soil

So basically, they are products that provide nutrients to the soil upon decomposition and has the least environmental impact!


As defined by ISO 14021, being recyclable is the “characteristic of a product, packaging, or associated component that can be diverted from the waste stream through available processes and programmes and can be collected, processed, and returned to use in the form of raw materials or products”. In layman’s term, recyclable products can be turned into something new. For example, notebooks made of recycled paper or skateboards made of recycled plastic.

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