- Understanding the Difference Between Biodegradable and Compostable
- Why Do We Use Biodegradable Wipes?
- Reasons Why You Should Never Compost Biodegradable Wipes
- The Harmful Nature of Biodegradable Wipes
- Ways to Properly Compost Biodegradable Wipes
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrap Up
Most people use wet wipes to clean worktops, children, their faces, and some minor things that need cleaning at some point in their lives.
After all, they are small wet tissues; what harm can they bring?
Today, unlike so many other throwaway items we use every day, more people realize biodegradable wipes are harmful to nature.
In contrast to tissue paper and ordinary paper, biodegradable wipes contain plastic.
It is indisputable that more people rely on wipes.
However, the rising plights of environmental conservatives are gaining traction.
The question that keeps popping on everyone’s head is, “can I put biodegradable wipes in compost?”
Whether you wipe off sticky fingers after a meal or clean up industrial spills, biodegradable wipes should never be disposed of in compost.
Understanding the Difference Between Biodegradable and Compostable
There is a common misconception of what people understand by the term biodegradable.
Often, we assume that it means compostable when it is not the case. When manufacturing companies claim their wipes are biodegradable, it doesn’t mean they are safe to compost.
Every user should understand that not all biodegradable wipes are compostable.
The presence of certain materials and conditions is necessary to make the compost breakdown much faster into mulch.
The term biodegradable means that the material or item can break down into small pieces and eventually be one with nature.
However, everything is biodegradable with time, and plastic is not an exception.
What matters is the process and time it takes for an item to break down completely.
The problem with plastics is that they can take more than 100 years to break down.
As they degrade into smaller microplastics, they may release other toxic substances to the environment.
Biodegradable wipes that contain plastic eventually find a way to harm wildlife and our waterways.
Unlike biodegrading, which is a natural process, composting refers to a human-controlled activity.
The purpose of making a composite is to break down items that release vital nutrients to the soil.
When materials decay under a mixture of dead leaves and earth, they generate biomass, water, inorganic compounds, or carbon dioxide.
The time it takes for any material to decompose will depend on the conditions under which it is composted.
The degrading process may take longer in a home compost than it would in industrial compost.
Therefore, biodegradable items can decompose when disposed of in landfills, but compostable materials will require special conditions.
It is essential for companies to label biodegradable wipes as compost or not. And should certify that their products will break down within a specified period and conditions.
While there are eco-friendly biodegradable wipes compostable, they might require high heat levels, oxygen, water, and other microorganisms that accelerate the degradation process.
Therefore, these conditions are only achievable through industrial processing and not home compost.
Why Do We Use Biodegradable Wipes?
- Convenience – There is no denying that wet wipes are useful in most situations, especially in situations where you spill a drink or need a quick wipe before going out.
- Sanitation – Wipes are the best way to disinfect or wipe down commonly used work surfaces. They are efficient and cut down on costs like clothes and sprays when you want a clean environment.
- Hygiene – Festival showers are helpful when you need to freshen up fast. Biodegradable wipes are a lifesaver for people who can’t access a proper wash. Most women commonly use wet wipes to remove make-up when there is no immediate access to flowing water.
It is inconceivable why biodegradable wipes keep getting bad press, yet we find them quite valuable for almost every situation.
The problem is not with the usage of wet wipes but how we choose to dispose of them after use.
Reasons Why You Should Never Compost Biodegradable Wipes
- The primary material of wet wipes is paper to make them soft, absorbent, and fluffy. However, wipes can sometimes contain synthetic fiber to make them durable and increase their softness. Unfortunately, synthetic fiber doesn’t decompose or degrade in compost. Instead of breaking down, it breaks into small synthetic pieces that can end up poisoning your soil.
- While many products are degradable, this can only happen under specific conditions. The presence of moisture, oxygen, heat and other components is necessary for a predetermined period. Within this time, you should replicate the needs of a processing facility.
- For wet wipes to remain moist, there must be a chemical process involved. These include chemicals like detergents, moisturizing lotions, and perfumes. It is ill-advised to introduce unknown chemicals to your home compost, especially if you want to use it on a nursery or vegetable bed. In cases of antibacterial wet wipes, they may contain isopropyl alcohol that disrupts the microbes of your home compost heap. Microbes are essential for decomposition.
- Wet wipes can generate other composting problems depending on what you wipe. For instance, dairy products, grease, or oil may attract rodents like rats to your compound. There is also the possibility that you may introduce nasty pathogens to your home compost. Consequently, a wet wipe cleaning agent may kill off the friendly bacteria responsible for degrading, leading to a negative environmental impact.
- Besides not disposing of your biodegradable wet wipe into compost, you should never flush it down the toilet. Unlike tissue paper that disintegrates, wet wipes will not break down and may cause a sewerage blockage. Alternatively, you can use reusable cotton wipes that you can wash after every use. Despite being degradable, reusable cotton wipes last longer and have less impact on landfills.
The Harmful Nature of Biodegradable Wipes
Composting is a science that relies on specific conditions for the breaking down of waste.
If you add items that compromise, this breakdown will have a negative impact on your compost heap.
Manufacturers claim that biodegradable wipes will break down into small pieces that are readily absorbed by the soil. It doesn’t mean they are environmental-friendly.
Most wet wipes will break down into tiny microplastics that will continuously degrade the earth for many years.
Everyone must play an active role in reducing the number of microplastics in our environment.
Studies indicate that an average person will inhale up to 75,000 microplastic particles per year and consume more than 39,000 within that period.
We should ensure that we buy and only compost wipes that can disintegrate into organic matter.
Ways to Properly Compost Biodegradable Wipes
The materials for a compost heap are vital to ensure that biodegradable wipes degrade within the shortest time possible.
The following is a list of fabrics that you can add to your home compost to aid in the decomposing process.
- Vegetable peelings
- Grass cuttings
- Fruit waste
The above products break down fast to give the compost essential elements like nitrogen and moisture to speed up degradation.
Other materials you should consider includes:
While most wipes claim to be biodegradable, only a few degrade over time in landfills.
When making a home compost, avoid disposing of any form of wet wipes even when labeled biodegradable.
The risk of compromising your compost process is high as chemicals from the wet wipes can destroy the compost heap’s active organisms.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I dispose of biodegradable wipes?
You can start by giving up the use of wet wipes.
If this becomes a problem, try reducing instances where you usually opt for wet wipes.
Alternatively, you can ensure that you always buy compostable and biodegradable wet wipes.
- Never flush wipes down the toilet even when they are labeled as flushable by the manufacturers.
- Always throw wet wipes in proper waste bins and not the ones for recyclable items.
Will compostable wipes break down when disposed of in landfills?
Wet wipes though compostable, will not readily break down in landfills.
The materials need specific conditions that can only be replicated in an industrial composting facility.
These are high heat levels, moisture, oxygen, and other essential microorganisms.
Are there biodegradable wet wipes?
The primary material for biodegradable wet wipes is natural fibers that ensure the decomposition process takes only a few weeks.
Wet wipes from the bamboo tree are sustainable because the plant regenerates and grows much faster.
How long will a biodegradable wipe take to decompose fully?
To biodegrade means to disappear naturally over some time. The process depends on the materials of the wipes.
However, some manufacturing companies claim that it can take around 42 days when disposed of in compost.
It is a much faster time than it takes wood fibers and pine needles.
The public should take time to understand the difference between biodegradable and compostable wet wipes.
The term compostable doesn’t mean the wipes are environmentally friendly.
On a home compost, biodegradable wipes may still take years before they fully decompose, exposing you to unwarranted health hazards.
The best way to dispose of your wet wipes is through the waste bin.
However, the best option will be for everyone to avoid using wet wipes regardless of whether they are biodegradable or not.