Biodegradable packaging can come in many different shapes and sizes. Depending on the type of packaging the answer will differ. Biodegradable plastic packaging is usually not actually fully biodegradable and will need perfect conditions in order to biodegrade. These conditions come with industrial composters, which means the waste has to be properly managed and sent to a proper industrial waste plant.
The term biodegradable plastic as it comes on the packaging doesn't necessarily mean its biodegradable. In order for a company to claim its product is biodegradable they only have to pass certain thresholds of biodegradability. Examples of these thresholds are listed below:
- 12 Weeks after composting there must be no more than 10% of material fragments larger than 2mm.
- Low levels of heavy metals.
- Within a maximum of 6 months, biodegradation of the test sample must generate at least 90 % as much as the carbon dioxide given off from the control material.
- Not to contain anything that would have a negative effect on the composting process.
As all of these are just simple requirements that will still affect the planet, we wouldn't class any biodegradable plastic as actually biodegradable. This will therefore lean us towards other types of packaging. We also have an article to better answer the question of When was biodegradable plastic invented.
Paper-based packaging is an example of a biodegradable type of packaging that has little to no effect on the environment. These types of packaging do need to be absent from any plastic coatings or lamination.
This type of packaging can range from simple cardboard boxes, paper mailing bags, tissue paper, kraft paper, and void fillers.
What is biodegradable material usually made of?
Biodegradable material is usually made from biopolymers, these biopolymers are found within living organisms such as cellulose and proteins. As they are organic this means that in certain conditions they can be consumed and degraded quickly without harming the environment.
Is biodegradable and compostable the same thing?
We have an article focused around Can Biodegradable Plastic Be Composed. The difference between the two depends on the type of compost used. A lot of biodegradable products may not properly compost in a standard homemade compost heap. These products will normally need an industrial compost heap.