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Compostable or bio-degradeable?

Does anyone know if there is any legal difference between these two terms?

Peter Nyssen use both terms to describe their bags.  Every autumn when I empty the compost bin, I fish out the bags that last year's bulbs arrived in, and they look no different.  I chuck them back in the top in forlorn hope.  If something is advertised as "compostable", I think it is reasonable to expect that it is at least showing signs of disintegrating after a year.  

The same goes for the food waste bags supplied by our council.  I stopped using them after having the same experience with those.  Now I line my food waste bin with newspaper and it goes in the compost bin along with the kitchen scraps.

Perhaps "bio-degradable" just means if you put it in the landfill bin, it will rot slightly quicker than the conventional plastics.


  • JoeXJoeX Posts: 1,327
    Biodegradable means the plastic particles will become too small to see over a few years.

    Whether this is a good thing or not is another matter, but its an easily measurable target for industry.
  • JoeXJoeX Posts: 1,327
    edited 17 October
    Compostable, I believe essentially means it will biodegrade in a home compost environment.

    Things that are marked biodegradable but not marked compostable are likely to need other conditions in order to break down into tiny bits.

    Happy to be corrected.
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 17,243
    edited 17 October
    According to Wiki,
    (Not to be read while eating a meal...)

    And here, it would seem, there is “compostable” and “home compostable”...

    Just to muddy the waters, as it were.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • philippasmith2philippasmith2 Posts: 9,137
    Our council do not supply bags for food waste - I buy a small roll from the SM which are designed to be used for our Bio/Heat Waste unit.  I only use it on the odd occasion for any cooked stuff that I cannot use ( bones, etc ) .
    All other stuff goes in my compost heap or at the base of containers for next years veg, etc.
    My NT magazine comes in a "recyclable" cover which I think is made with potato starch. I thought I'd try that with the food waste but it leaked quite drastically so I haven't used it again for that purpose. If it is more porous as seems the case, I'm presuming it will break down but I've yet to try one in my compost heap.  
  • edhelkaedhelka GwyneddPosts: 1,344
    I would expect bio-degradable to mean just that, it decomposes on its own, eventually. Compostable - it makes sense to put it into compost. I wouldn't try to compost bulb bags (I can't imagine them having any nutrients or positive effect on the compost structure) but I would assume I can throw them into the garden waste bin.
    BTW I have exactly the opposite problem with our council food waste bags. They start decomposing in less than two weeks which is annoying.
    BTW2 I collect plastic shopping bags to reuse and I've seen the biodegradable ones disintegrate into small pieces in a dry home environment many times so I don't think they need any special conditions.
  • B3B3 Posts: 14,700
    I had some stuff in a carrier bag for a long time. When I went to pick it up, it disintegrated into little squares. Unless these squares eventually disintegrate into something organic ( in the old sense of the word), it seems to me that the little bits would cause worse environmental damage than an intact bag.
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • @josusa47 I'm glad you posted this, I had exactly the same question. I've just put a bunch more Peter Nyssen bags in the compost and now I'm thinking about taking them out. They're very clearly marked as "home compostable" and not for recycling, but I've got the same issue as you, they don't break down at all. I thought my compost heap was broken  ;) 

  • FireFire LondonPosts: 7,084
    "Biodegradable means the plastic particles will become too small to see over a few years."

    Do you have a source for that? It's not a definition I have ever seen.

    "Compostable" can mean various different things, but often that it will only degrade under certain industry conditions. "Home compostable" should mean that high heat or other special conditions should not be required. That doesn't mean that it will take a short time.

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 17,243
    Fire said:
    "Biodegradable means the plastic particles will become too small to see over a few years."

    Do you have a source for that? It's not a definition I have ever seen.

    Words to that effect can be found in the second link that I provided above.

    As to composting v home composting, here is some information.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
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