To be able to make informed choices when you’re shopping, the more knowledge about sustainable options the better. More and more products and packaging are now being described or labelled as biodegradable and while many shoppers understand that this is a good thing, there are still a lot of people who don’t understand why. We’re here to help.

What is the definition of biodegradable?

The dictionary definition of the word biodegradable is: 

An adjective that means capable of being broken down, especially into innocuous products by the actions of living things (such as microorganisms)

Confusing, right?

In simpler terms, something that is biodegradable means that the products can be broken down by bacteria or microbes in nature and absorbed by the environment that surrounds it. Preferably, this is hoped to be done without releasing any type of toxic chemicals or waste in the process, however, this may not always be the case.

Biodegradable products require less synthetic processes and materials to be created or broken down - meaning less impact on the planet. 

What materials are naturally biodegradable?

Materials which are naturally and definitely biodegradable include the following natural elements, amongst others:

  • Food waste: organic waste of fruit and vegetables
  • Plants: wood, paper, bamboo, 
  • Natural fabrics: cotton, wool, hemp, leather

Why are biodegradable materials important?

The materials we use and the products we create as humans have a huge impact on the world and planet around us - unfortunately, this is often more a negative one than a positive one. 

According to Columbia Climate School, in 2017 the world had produced over nine billion tonnes of plastic since the 1950s. The IUCN revealed in 2021 that at least 14 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year, and plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. This all results in huge amounts of water and air pollution that causes harm to the environment.

The use of biodegradable materials is important because it means that more sustainable production lines are in place and more thought is being made about the impact of products beyond their usage for a more positive, sustainable life cycle. Naturally biodegradable products can be broken down by nature and in nature requiring no further chemical processing and reducing pollution output.

Is being biodegradable a good thing?

Without proper understanding, the term biodegradable can often be mistaken to mean that a product is definitely a sustainable option. While this is always the hope, this isn’t always the case. 

Naturally biodegradable products like food or plants are more sustainable and are therefore a good thing, however, the creation of bioplastics means some materials can be described as biodegradable but are still harmful to the environment.

Bioplastics are still plastic meaning they’re still not a wholly sustainable product but they can still be a much more environmentally-friendly option for people to consider compared to the alternatives. In a world where packaging is typically a must-have for companies to ship products safely, bioplastics can be key in providing more eco-friendly packaging for businesses to consider. 

Why it’s important how we dispose of biodegradable products

The key thing to understand about biodegradable products is that they can only have a positive impact on the environment if the way they’re disposed of is correct.

It doesn’t matter how biodegradable a product is if you still just chuck it into your everyday bin for it to end up in a landfill. While it may break down quicker than the 500 years it will take the rest of the rubbish with it, it’s still likely to add to the pollution that comes from these landfills.

That’s why businesses that offer more sustainable options for products at the end of their life cycle are key for the environment. For example, here at Wave Case, we urge our customers to send their used phone cases to us for us to industrially compost or even recycle into new cases. This means that the products are broken down in the best way for the planet and something new is formed without the need for creating new materials and adding more pollution.

Want to learn more about what biodegradable means to us here at Wave? Check out the sustainability practices we’ve adopted as a business to have the best intentions when it comes to protecting our planet.
February 13, 2024 — Wave Case
Tags: Guide