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Sustainable Basics: Examining "Biodegradable" + "Compostable"

One of the first thing we often find ourselves and our community asking is "how can I dispose of this item". This isn't shocking, as we live in a consumer-driven society with disposal being a common action as it is a large piece of our culture.

'Biodegradable' and 'compostable', are often marketed as a "feel-good vibe" when purchasing items. But what do they mean? What does that NOT mean? What do we need to understand our conscious decision making while shopping? 

For starters, it's important to know that The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates environmental product marketing claims and oversees whether products labeled compostable or biodegradable mislead consumers. Having this oversight is a huge help, but often still leaves consumers confused. 

 

Biodegradable Facts "Biodegradable" is arguably the more confusing of the two terms because most things are biodegradable, even if it takes 100 years. The FTC defines a product can be marketed as biodegradable only if it can be completely decomposed within a year. Not all biodegradable products are compostable, understanding its limitations is a step in the right direction for being a conscious consumer. Always dig a little deeper when a product is labeled biodegradable to understand exactly how it should be disposed of checking out the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) to learn what biodegradable products are compostable.   
                                             
Composting is key to helping create a circular waste system. The process of composting creates useful humus that provides soil with valuable nutrients (unlike something that just biodegrades).

Understanding how a product can be composted is the first step to making sure your 'compostable' shopping list is feasible for your waste less life. Is it something that can be composted in your backyard or does it require being sent to an industrial facility?
Composting Fact
 
For an item to be composted in your backyard it's supposed to be labeled clearly that it's safe to compost at home. If it doesn't have that label, I always suggest assuming it should go in a commercial composting facility. Looking for BPI certified labeling ensures these products will safely break down in a commercial composting facility. You can check products and brands here.                                                                                       
Ensuring your have a commercial/industrial composting option available is also important when starting to purchase compostable eco-products. A key piece to composting is that all the products in the compost must be able to breakdown in about the same amount of time. So, in your backyard leaves, apple cores and paper towels can do that, but once you add in more complex compostable materials- you start to lose the similar timeline. That's why commercial composting is required for many products.                                                                                          

To find out if you have access, start by reaching out to your Waste Management Provider. You can also use findacomposter.com to find facilities. From that search, you can contact nearby facilities and learn what local services are available to collect and deliver your compost.      

                                                                                                                        

Lastly, understanding what can effectively be composted in your very own backyard is a useful tool! There are lots of great resources on the Internet to learn more. We recommend starting with the simply Home Composting Page by the EPA.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

The takeaway is to read the fine print and understand what resources you have available to you as you start (or continue) your conscious journey of disposal. We are beefing up our disposal information in 2021, as we work through all our products, you'll begin to see exactly how we recommend items be disposed of or composted! To get you started, our Swedish Dish Cloths ,  Plant Based Loofah and Plant Based Pouf are three of our products that can be thrown in your home compost bin! Got more questions? Reach out via DM or shoot us an email!