HOLY WASTE! Recyclable Vs Biodegradable Vs Compostable Packaging?

By Cat • 26 May 2021

When it comes to packaging, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of labels! What’s the difference between bio-degradable and compostable? Is one better than the other? Or does recyclable win out in terms of longterm impact on resources? How can you be sure you’re not falling for some clever phrasing, dreamt up by a marketing department to greenwash us into purchasing their supplies?

We’ve created this helpful infographic to help apply a little context to the choices you might be looking to make as an online retailer, when it comes to your packaging.


What it means: can be reprocessed into new products


What it means: materials will break down when decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms (no timeframe)

  • ‘Biodegradable’ products are not certified or regulated e.g. a single-use cup that is 70% organic material and 30% plastic can be sold as ‘biodegradable.'

  • The cost of biodegradable plastics manufacturing is more than 2X that of conventional plastics

  • While biodegradable packaging has the ability to break down into smaller parts, there's no guarantee that these are not harmful to the environment.

  • By 2024, the biodegradable packaging market is expected to be worth US$ 12 billion


What it means: will break down into a substance that can be used as compost, with no toxic impact on the soil.

  • For bioplastic to be certified as compostable, it must decompose at the same speed as organic matter – typically within 3-6 months.

  • Unless labeled as suitable for home composting, compostable packaging must be processed at a facility that can create the necessary conditions.

  • Compostable packaging should not be recycled (it can actually contaminate the process!)

  • By 2027, the compostable packaging market is expected to be worth US$ 21,633 million

As you can see, there’s no one “perfect” solution to packaging. What matters is putting in real thought and consideration to the best fit for your business needs as well the planet, and then doing all you can to reduce, reuse and recycle the materials that you do end up using.

Join our community and get involved with conversational topics such as this one and continue your journey to a more sustainable ecommerce business. See you there!

Download our infographic and refer to it when you get stuck!