Differences between bio-based, biodegradable and compostable

Differences between bio-based, biodegradable and compostable

The green terms are flying around you in the packaging world: bio-based, biodegradable and compostable. What exactly is it, is there really that much difference between the three and if so, what are those differences? Read this blog and you will know exactly how it is.

Bio-based = renewable

Bio-based products are made from renewable raw materials. As the word ‘renewable’ suggests: these resources grow again and can be extracted again and again. Examples are: wool, cotton, wood, algae or biowaste. There are also various plastics that consist of bio-based raw materials, such as sugar, starch or corn. We also call these bio-plastics. They comply with the EN 16575 standard. A disadvantageous side effect: bio-based materials are not always biodegradable or compostable.


You speak of biodegradable packaging material if fungi and bacteria can break down the material in a biological manner, without residues. Think of: wood, cotton and cork. How long this process takes depends on the material and the circumstances. It can take years to break down. The standard is that it is not harmful to nature and so it falls under the heading of sustainable materials. As a synonym for biodegradable, compostable is also used, but that is not correct. You can read why that is in the next section.


If packaging material is compostable, it can be broken down in a biological way. These are, for example, materials that are made from starch and that you can simply dispose of with the organic waste. The difference with biodegradable is that composting must take place within 12 weeks. The material must then be at least 95% broken down in an industrial composting installation. If this is the case, it complies with the EN 13432 standard for compostable materials.

Which is better for the environment?

Whether you use packaging material that is bio-based, biodegradable or compostable, it is in any case more sustainable than conventional products, such as non-degradable plastic or plastic material that breaks down into tiny pieces (microplastics). But we also know that sometimes there is no good alternative for these non-durable plastic materials. It is therefore important for all of us that we find this alternative quickly. So work on the shop!

Knowing more? Would you like advice on sustainable packaging? Then Contact ecomax!

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