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What’s the Difference Between Biodegradable, Oxo-Degradable, Compostable and Home Compostable Packaging?

Ever wondered what all those terms used by sustainable brands really mean? Here’s a break down.

Victoria Halina
4 min readJul 22, 2020


Plastic pollution is now considered one of the most pressing environmental issues globally, with the level of production and use of disposable plastic products far outweighing the world’s ability to deal with them.

“Of 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic we’ve thrown away since we started mass-producing it in the 1950s, just 600 million tonnes has been recycled.” — Science Advances

It’s no surprise then, that packaging manufacturers are now producing more options aside from plastic packaging, and we see more and more brands opting to choose alternative solutions in order to become more sustainable.

But to a consumer, the terms used by brands to describe their packaging can be confusing to say the least.

How do we know what options are truly sustainable? We’re here to dissect the different terms out there to help you, hopefully, understand and make wiser choices.


Biodegradation is a naturally-occurring process, and by definition, a substance or object is biodegradable if it is “capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms”. Some things are naturally biodegradable, such as food and plants, whilst other objects can break down into harmful gases or substances.

The key with biodegradable packaging is: what exactly is it made of? Technically speaking, most things can biodegrade. But whilst organic waste may take around 1–6 months to biodegrade, other materials on the other hand, take a very, very, very long time, if at all.

“A recent study by the University of Plymouth’s international marine litter research unit found biodegradable plastic bags were largely undamaged and still able to carry shopping three years after being buried in soil or left in sea water.” — BBC



Victoria Halina

Explorer, starter, change agent. Polymath — you’ll tell by my writing. Founder at — single origin coffee in plastic free packaging.