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Degradable vs Biodegradable vs Compostable vs Recyclable: How Do They Differ? (Updated 2020)

Over the past 40 years, there has been a growing clamor to make all industries move towards a more environmentally friendly world. People start to question the sustainability of disposable goods, service practices, and other things. They need to know what products and services are good, what is sustainable, and what is eco-friendly. 

When questions arise, answers are needed. Product manufacturers attempt to provide these answers by creating labels that refer to the manner of disposal for their products. 

Among the categories for disposal, there are four terms that are commonly used: Biodegradable, Degradable, Compostable, and Recyclable. With all these labels, it gets a little confusing to choose what would be ideal for you and your stance on eco-friendly practices. 

A Brief Description of the Four Categories

To help you along, we here at Rainforest Bowls came up with this article to guide you along your journey to environmental sustainability.

Biodegradable Products

Biodegradable products are those that break down into water, carbon dioxide, and other organic materials—all of which aren’t harmful to the environment. You don’t need special chemicals or substances to kickstart the breakdown; all it takes is a few bacteria or fungi. 

When these products biodegrade, they leave behind harmless materials. Biodegradable products are typically made from plants and other organic materials.

All-natural Coconut Bowls

While biodegradable products are generally eco-friendly, the process itself takes years and is still a little wasteful. Biodegradable products usually get disposed of in landfills where they end up getting buried. The bacteria required to break down the material cannot thrive underneath all the trash and product, as there is very little oxygen available. 

The proper method of disposal for biodegradable products is to simply take them to commercial compost heaps or recycling centers. Another option is to check if there is a nearby biogas plant in your area, which uses biodegradable products to generate electricity.

Some great examples of biodegradable products are coconut bowls and wooden utensils, such as the Original Coconut Bowl and Coconut Wood Utensils.

We here at Rainforest Bowls, a company dedicated to providing people with environmentally friendly products, created these products for the purpose of sustainable living and minimum waste lifestyle. The bowls and utensils are crafted using recycled materials and treated to ensure durability. Additionally, after extensive use and eventual wear and tear, the coconut bowls can be repurposed as planters when they do break.

Degradable Products

Degradable products are usually oil-based. These products undergo chemical reactions to allow them to break down, a process that could take thousands of years. 

Unlike biodegradable products, degradable products do not break down into completely organic materials. They simply break apart into microscopic versions of themselves and remain in the environment as they are.

One of the most common forms of degradable products is single-use plastic wrappers. When the plastic degrades, it turns into microplastic debris which negatively affects the environment, particularly when it interferes with the food chain.

Animals like fish, birds, turtles, and dolphins usually end up consuming the microplastic that gets washed into the ocean. Of the four labels, degradable products are the least environmentally sustainable.

Proper disposal methods are available for degradable products. If your city has incinerator facilities, the degradable products can be taken there to be properly disposed of. Incinerators burn hot enough to turn the product to ash, rendering it less harmful to the environment.

Compostable Products

Compostable products break down into natural elements and mainly come from plants and other organic materials. These products break down into natural elements, but only in a compost setting, which is rich in microorganisms and reaches high temperatures. 

When compostable products finish their natural decaying process, they generate nutrient-rich soil, which can be used to cultivate plants. Compostable products break down much faster than biodegradable products, many of which complete their processes at 90 days. Given this, compostable products are the most eco-friendly products of the bunch.

Compostable products are designed to break down after a given period, so they should not be used as recycling materials. They’re one of the more sustainable choices, as they can be returned to the earth in a way that benefits the environment. Users can send their compostable products to commercial compost heaps to dispose of them properly and help in creating nutrient-rich soil for the propagation of other plants.

All-natural Bamboo Straws

Some great examples of compostable products are bamboo straws and bamboo utensils, which are also available at Rainforest Bowls. Bamboo straws and utensils are reusable, sustainably sourced, and eco-friendly—a perfect choice for those who want to transition to sustainable living. When you no longer need these straws and utensils, you can simply bury them in a compost heap and let Mother Nature take care of the rest.

Recyclable Products

Recyclable products simply mean that the material used to make the product can be broken down and reprocessed into another product. Recycling turns the products into new raw materials, ready to produce different objects. 

Common recyclable materials are cardboard, paper, plastic, and aluminum cans. Most recycling facilities accept these materials. There are also facilities that accept unbroken glass as a recyclable object.

Other recyclable household objects are batteries, electronics, and fabric, although these require a special recycling process. Check with your local waste management to find out what kind of facilities are available in your area.

When recycling, you need to ensure proper segregation of waste. Compostable products should be sorted out of the pile, as they may spoil or mess up the material produced. This is because compostable products behave differently and are designed to break down quickly.

Choosing recyclable products like the Art Coconut Bowls from Rainforest Bowls enables users to have a choice. When the bowl is no longer needed, it can be taken to recycling centers to be reprocessed or be repurposed as planters.

What’s the Difference?

Biodegradable vs Compostable

These labels are quite similar, although there are two main differences between biodegradable products and compostable products:

  1.     The length of time it takes to decompose
  2.     The organic matter that results from the decomposition

Biodegradable products take much longer to fully decompose than compostable products. While it may take biodegradable products years to fully decompose, compostable products may take as little as 90 days to finish. Additionally, compostable products produce a much richer byproduct than biodegradable products. Compostable products process into rich soil that can be used to aid the growth of new plants, while biodegradable products simply decompose into harmless organic matter.

Degradable vs Biodegradable

Degradable products are more harmful than biodegradable products. Instead of degrading on their own by exposure to bacteria, degradable products undergo chemical reactions over long periods to decompose. It can take up to thousands of years for degradable products to decompose, and even then, traces of these products will still be found in the environment.

Since degradable products are oil-based, they come from non-renewable sources, making them unsustainable and not environmentally friendly. 

On the other hand, biodegradable products degrade into harmless organic byproducts and take a considerably shorter time to process. Between the two products, biodegradable products are the more eco-friendly option.

Compostable vs Recyclable

The most dissimilar categories among the four are compostable and recyclable products. Compostable products decompose in a compost heap and return nutrients to the soil when they finish their processes. They are also made of organic matter.

Recyclable material works in a similar manner, as the product can be returned to processing facilities that turn the waste into workable material. The recyclable products are not necessarily of organic origin, as the material can be paper, metal, plastic, glass, and other items.

And now the big question: I’m just a regular person, how do I separate it all?

We regular people can increase the efficiency of waste separation easily in our homes. For your home, make sure you segregate your trash properly. 

Keep separate bins for your compostable products (these are usually food waste), biodegradable products (biodegradable plastics and others), and recyclables. You can rinse out any water or drink bottles, and put away cereal boxes, old newspapers, and aluminum soda cans and set them aside as your recyclables.

Keep them in separate trash bags or containers and take them to the appropriate processing facilities. If you live in a subdivision or condominium, your homeowner’s association usually takes care of this for you, so all you need to do is contact your waste management office and ask for the specifics.

Why do we need to be more conscious of the products we buy?

Let’s face it, folks, climate change is real. Corporate giants have been spewing waste into the environment for years, churning out pollution, unsustainable practices, and increasing their carbon footprint on this world. The temperatures are rising and so are the oceans. Fish are dying, glaciers melting, landfills are overflowing, and we are running out of space. 

We as consumers can change that. When we put in the effort to make conscious decisions on what we purchase, get to know how the materials have been sourced, if it has been produced ethically and sustainably, we are each helping in our own little ways to turn the tide of pollution.

Our products are sustainable, environmentally friendly, and ethically sourced. We take pride in the work we put into our products to assure our customers of authenticity, quality, and most importantly, eco-friendliness.

Mission

When you choose to use compostable, recyclable, and biodegradable products over single-use disposables, you’re already on your way to living a sustainable life.

Ways to Recycle Our Coconut Bowls

We here at Rainforest Bowls are dedicated to promoting minimal waste lifestyles. We have different sizes for our bowls, so we surely have the right bowls for your needs. 

In the event that our coconut bowls break, or if you simply decide that you want to change things up, we have a few suggestions for repurposing the products. 

Turn them into planters

Coconut bowls hold their shape even with prolonged exposure to outside elements. These characteristics make it ideal for them to be turned into planters to hold in the soil for your lovely indoor or garden plants.

Our decorative bowls, such as the Art Coconut Bowl, would definitely make for beautiful homes for your plants!

Use them as sensory toys for children

Coconut shells produce clicking sounds when struck, so parents can repurpose old coconut bowls by gluing decorations onto them (like yarn balls and googly eyes) to make new playtime buddies for their kids. The sound produced by the toy and the texture of the coconut are going to give your babies more stimulus to different senses as they play.

Turn them into art canvases and mosaics

Coconut bowls can be painted over, drawn on, and colored. The bowls can be turned into pieces of art that can decorate your homes. Coconut shell material only requires little priming solution before you start designing and decorating. 

If you’re an ambitious artist, you can make mosaics by painting bowls of different sizes and arranging them on your wall to form one large image.

Use them as bird feeders in your backyard

You can use the bowls and expose them to the elements of mother nature, seeing that they did come from organic material. It will not be invasive to the environment and can hold the weight of birdseed and grain. The bowl will not scare off the birds, as it is of similar quality to their natural perches in branches and trees.

Summary

Essentially, the world now needs us to be more environmentally conscious. While most people may be satisfied when they see the “eco-friendly” sticker label, we know it is not enough.

Consumers must educate themselves to help put our world into better shape. That includes knowing the difference between degradable and biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable.

One person making conscious decisions won’t heal the planet all at once, but it is the first step towards influencing the world to become more sustainable. With all the strategies you’ve read, what will you do to live a sustainable life?

Wholesale For starters, why not check out our collection of eco-friendly, biodegradable products? These products will no doubt help you get started on your journey to sustainability!

Author Profile

Trish Suarez is a contributing author to Rainforest Bowls. As someone from the tropics she thrives on the sun, sea, and coconut filled beaches. Her favorite poolside refreshment is açaí berry smoothie served in a beautifully crafted coconut bowl.


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