The Difference Between “Biodegradable” and “Compostable”

The Difference Between “Biodegradable” and “Compostable”

“Biodegradable” and “Compostable” are terms often used when referring to sustainable packaging and there seems to be confusion as to what exactly the difference is, or, if there’s any difference at all!

The confusion sets in when these terms are used interchangeably.  It’s important to note that although a product can be both biodegradable and compostable, the processes are not the same.

Another important distinction to make is that compostable items are biodegradable, but biodegradable items are not necessarily compostable.

At EcoPack, most of our products are 100% Biodegradable and Compostable.


Products that are biodegradable are capable of being decomposed by bacteria, fungi or algae.  Biodegradable items will eventually disappear into the environment and leave no harmful chemicals behind.  The amount of time is not really defined, but it’s not thousands of years (which is the lifespan of various plastics).


Products that are compostable, are capable of decaying into nutrient-rich, natural material under controlled conditions in a commercial composting facility.  This is achieved through controlled exposure to microorganisms, humidity and temperature.  Unlike when items are left to biodegrade, when composting items, there is an estimated time frame involved.

Here’s a quick, simple overview of the main differences: