Are Biodegradable Packaging Recyclable?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: September 21, 2021
  • Time to read: 4 min.

There are different types of biodegradable packaging materials. 

Some biodegradable packaging material is made of paper. And others are made of biobased plastics. 

Paper packaging is recyclable. Biobased plastic is also recyclable. But the availability to recycle biobased plastics varies.

The best way to determine if your biodegradable packaging is recyclable is to read the product’s label information. 

This label will tell you if the packaging material is compostable or recyclable. 

And if you are unsure of what materials are recycled at your local center, give them a call. 

I am sure the friendly recycling center employee will be happy to help you better understand recycling.

What is Biobased Plastic?

Plastics made from plant material instead of from a petroleum base are biobased plastics

These plastics are designed to biodegrade. This is because biobased plastic is plant-based. 

The problem with biobased plastic is that it can last in the environment as long as oil-based plastics.

What is Recycling?

The process of turning potential trashed materials into new items is recycling. 

Recyclable items include steel cans, paper products, and bottles (plastic, glass, aluminum). 

Recycling has many benefits that help the environment and the economy. Recycling –

·        Prevents pollution

·        Reduces raw material extraction

·        Reduces the amount of waste in landfills

·        Creates jobs in the recycling industry

·        Supports the domestic manufacturing industry

Check with your local recycling center to find out what is recycled in your area. 

Recycling capabilities vary from region to region and state to state.

Types of Biodegradable Packaging

Paper products and biobased plastics are types of biodegradable packaging materials.

Paper Biodegradable Packaging

·        Shredded paper

·        Kraft paper

·        Cardboard

·        Corrugated Wrap

Biobased Biodegradable Packaging

·        Vacuum pouches

·        Shopping bags

·        To Go Containers

·        Single-use forks, spoons, knives

What does biodegradable mean?

Biodegradable means a material can break down without causing harm to the environment. 

It means limited amounts of harmful chemicals that enter the soil, air, and water. 

Bacteria, fungi, and environmental conditions cause the decomposition of biodegradable materials. 

Examples of biodegradable materials are paper waste, food waste, manure, and sewage.

Why Are Biodegradable Products Not Recyclable?

Most biodegradable products are recyclable. You can put paper gift bags that do not have a plastic coating in the recycling bin. 

Make sure to check for any metal pieces that might be on the bag. If you find any – remove it before putting it in the recycling bin. 

You also might need to remove the gift bag handle depending on its material.

Recycling biobased plastics is not as straight-forward. The ability to recycle biobased plastics depends on your local area. 

The problem is that some biobased plastic cannot be recycled with other plastics. 

This is because its chemical structure is not compatible with that of the other plastics. 

If the biobased plastic has a similar chemical structure, it can be recycled with oil-based plastics.

How Do You Dispose of Biodegradable Packing?

How you dispose of biodegradable packing depends on the material it is made of.

Biodegradable packaging made of paper products can go in the general waste bin. 

But I suggest recycling paper products instead of sending them to the landfill.

Biobased plastic packing material can go either in the waste bin or the recycling bin. 

If you have the option of recycling the biobased plastic, please do. If you are uncertain if you can recycle the product, read its label. 

The product’s label will list waste disposal options – recyclability and composability.

Paper Packing Materials

·        General waste bin (avoid if recycling option is available)

·        Paper recycle bin

Biobased Plastics

·        General waste bin

·        Plastic recycle bin (check your local area for availability)

·        Compost bin (check product’s label)

Is Biodegradable Packaging Compostable?

I find that not all biodegradable packaging is compostable. 

You must know what the packaging material is made of. 

Compostable materials enhance the soil after they decompose. Brown paper materials are compostable. 

This is because microorganisms and worms will consume the paper. Both of which add value to the soil.

If your biodegradable packaging material is made of starches or sugars, you can put it into the compost bin. 

There is a caveat to being able to do this. You cannot compost biobased plastic with a structure the same as petroleum-based plastic. 

You can find out if the packaging material is compostable by reading the product’s information label.

Which is better: biodegradable or compostable?

Compostable materials are biodegradable. Yet not all biodegradable materials are compostable. 

For a material to be compostable, it must break down into soil conditioning materials. 

Biodegradable materials breakdown in soil and water, but they do not provide compost.

Compostable plastics are better than biodegradable because they provide nutrients to the soil. 

Plastics are compostable if they decompose at a similar rate as other materials. 

And the material cannot leave any residue in the soil that will interfere with the growth of plants.

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