We have everything from recycled to recyclable, biodegrable and compostable, but what does it all mean, exactly?
What is the difference between compostable and biodegradable?
In laymans terms: if you put an object in the ground, in water, or leave it open to the elements, over time it will disintegrate. You could argue that everything is biodegradable, but really what we are talking about there is entropy, a thermodynamic law that says that over time, everything will eventualy disintegrate*. But I digress.
Being biodegradable means that something is capable of decaying naturally without harming the environment.
How is biodegradable different to compostable?
Paper is biodegradable, as is cardboard, but you wouldn’t put it onto your compost heap as it won’t add any nutrients to the compost. Something that is compostable is an organic material that breaks down over a relatively short period of time without harming the environment, that becomes compost.
What is the difference between recycled and recyclable?
You can have a paper bag that is recyclable, but it is probably made from raw materials that have not been recycled. Most paper bags, unless otherwise stated, are made from virgin pulp. You can however put that paper bag in your recycling bin for it to be recycled into something else.
Something that is recycled is made from other recycled materials, and also items that were once raw, or virgin materials.
*science buffs: This is a far-removed over-simplification, I’m well aware!