Recycling, Composting and Biodegradability

September 24, 2020

What’s the difference between recycling, composting, and biodegradability?

Recycling breaks down a used product into raw materials, so that it can be used again for production.

Composting uses a particular environment to turn organic waste into useful soil fertilizer.

A material is biodegradable if it will breakdown in the environment on its own. What the material is made of determines how long it will take to decompose. Fiber-based products, like paperboard, take only a few months to breakdown, whereas plastics take decades.

Why is this all important?

Packaging is often designed to be single-use only: used once and then disposed of. About one-third of the average dump is made up of packaging material. This is problematic because not only is it taking up landfill space unnecessarily, it is also a waste of recyclable resources. Processing waste through recycling and composting is better than throwing it away.

Creating products from recycled materials uses less energy than harvesting new resources. For example, each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water. This represents 64% energy savings, 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less of air pollution.

Composting is another great way to reuse material that can breakdown organically. Industrial composting facilities create a particular environment that causes organic matter to breakdown into soil fertilizer. This is very useful for farmers growing crops, like trees, to create paperboard. What if we don’t recycle or compost? Landfills fill up too fast and more methane gas is produced, which causes harm to the atmosphere. Trash ends up in places it shouldn’t, like oceans, and damages the environment.

This brings us back around to biodegradability. If a piece of trash is not recycled or composted, it will still breakdown in the natural environment. However, sometimes this can take decades or even centuries, depending on the material. Waste that is properly disposed of is contained in landfills, so manufacturing products to breakdown sooner would improve the usability of landfills.

However, waste that does not make it to adequately designed landfills (and there is a lot of it!), has a negative effect on the environment over the decades it is around. It damages plant and animal life, which affects our well-being too.

This is why it’s important to have sustainable packaging that people can recycle or compost. It keeps waste out of the environment, and saves energy and resources in production. When packaging cannot be recycled or composted, it is important to make it as biodegradable as possible, to keep waste from polluting the earth and destroying ecosystems that keep us alive.

Paperboard is an easily recyclable and compostable material, and it also biodegrades much faster than plastic material. If you are looking for environmentally-friendly products made from paperboard, browse our catalog here.