What's the Difference: Compostable vs Biodegradable

As more people move towards eco-conscious choices, navigating the maze of various terms and labels is quite overwhelming. Two such terms that are often used interchangeably are: “Compostable” and”Biodegradable”. 

Both terms are similar in that they refer to the ability of a material to break down in the soil over time but that’s where the similarity ends. In fact, there are some key differences between the two terms. 

Everything that is Compostable is Biodegradable but not everything that is Biodegradable is Compostable. 

Compostable products are designed to break down under specific conditions that involve exposure to heat, moisture, and the microorganisms found in composting facilities or home compost bins. The process yields compost that can be used to enrich soil and support plant growth. On the other hand, Biodegradable products break down naturally over time with the help of microorganisms, sunlight, and oxygen. Unlike compostable items, biodegradable materials may not necessarily yield nutrient-rich compost. The breakdown process can occur in various environments, such as landfills, oceans, or even backyard compost bins, depending on the specific material.

3 Key Differences between Biodegradable vs Compostable products

    1. Time Frame: Compostable products decompose more quickly than biodegradable ones, often within weeks to months, under proper composting conditions. Biodegradable items can take a longer time to break down, anywhere from several months to years, depending on the material and environmental conditions.
    2. Certification: Compostable products comply with industry standards via specific certifications, such as the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) or  ASTM International certification for compostability. On the other hand, Biodegradable items may lack standardized certification placing the burden of research to the consumers when purchasing products. 
    3. Environmental Impact: Compostable items generally have a lower environmental impact, as they create valuable compost that promotes plant growth thereby completing a circular, sustainable cycle. Biodegradable materials may still leave behind residue or microplastics, which can potentially cause environmental harm.


    At Pickytarian, we firmly believe that opting for reusable alternatives whenever possible remains the ultimate eco-friendly approach. However, we know that there are occasions where it is not convenient or possible to reuse items. In those cases, we encourage you to use products with certified compostable materials. 

    Furthermore, we encourage you to explore home composting options if your local infrastructure allows it. Turning food scraps and yard waste into nutrient-rich compost not only reduces landfill waste but also promotes healthy soil and homegrown produce.

    Being conscious of our impact on the environment is a journey, not a destination. By making informed choices, we can collectively make the earth more habitable for ourselves and future generations one mindful step at a time.