Back in the 90s, the term ‘biodegradable’ made its way into the eco zeitgeist and became a product label favorite for greenies and marketers alike. Today, along with biodegradable products, compostable items are lining store shelves. So what’s the difference between the two and which is greener?
According to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Green Guide, a product or package qualifies as biodegradable if it “completely breaks down and returns to nature, decomposing into elements found in nature within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal.” The term ‘biodegradable’ however has no legal enforcement or definition therefore the term has been used loosely by some manufacturers.
The problem with items that are biodegradable is that most of today’s landfills lack exposure to sunlight, air and moisture for the biodegradable product or package to break down in a timely manner. Unfortunately, “biodegradable” is typically a term used to green wash products and make them seem good for the environment.