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Biodegradable or compostable - what is the difference?

With the world on the mission to become carbon neutral, it has never been so important for organisations to consider eco-friendly alternatives to their business practices as well as recognise there is a growing market of environmentally-conscious customers. Besides the public’s desire to see ecological improvement, we are also seeing that companies making eco-friendly changes are the ones also becoming more profitable.

However, before you take one of the first steps and invest in eco-friendly alternatives, it is probably wise to know what you are buying and how it will be used.

With ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ being the most frequently used terms, it can be confusing when discussing recycling.

So, let’s break down the difference between the two:


The phrase “biodegradable” refers to natural goods that, with the aid of fungi, bacteria, and other biological processes, can break down into other natural elements. Whereas compostable products only leave one organic end material.

To put it simply… all compostable items are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable products are compostable.

For a product to be labelled as biodegradable, it must be able to turn into organic matter. And generally, biodegradable products break down faster, usually lasting between three to six months.

Almost everything is biodegradable (even some plastic) BUT it can take these centuries for these materials to break down entirely.


When a product is certified as compostable, the item will eventually decompose into the soil and leave behind non-toxic components (like water, carbon dioxide, and biomass). Under the correct conditions, won’t harm the environment.

While biodegradable goods refer to just any material which breaks down and decomposes in the environment, compostable goods have specific beneficial uses, including fertilising and improving soil health.

When it comes to sustainability in general, we can all argue what is best - the basis of compostable and biodegradable – but the conversation always ends that as a society, we need consume less stuff and reduce our reliance on disposable and one-use items.

At Visual Print and Design, we have sustainability in mind. Check out our seed and plant promotional products to improve your CSR and reduce your impact on the environment.

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