Key differences between biodegradable and compostable packaging

Key differences between biodegradable and compostable packaging

Our simple comparison table highlights the key differences between biodegradable and compostable packaging:

Biodegradable Packaging

Compostable Packaging


Materials that can break down naturally over time through the action of microorganisms such as bacteria or fungi.

Materials that can undergo the process of composting, transforming into nutrient-rich soil under specific conditions.

Breakdown Time

Varies widely depending on the material and environmental conditions. Can take months to years to decompose.

Typically breaks down within a specific timeframe under controlled composting conditions.

Environmental Impact

May release harmful substances during the breakdown process. The speed of decomposition is not guaranteed, leading to potential accumulation of waste.

Designed to leave minimal environmental impact. Converts into nutrient-rich soil, supporting plant growth and reducing waste accumulation.

Composting Process

May or may not fully degrade in home composting systems and require industrial composting facilities for proper breakdown.

Requires specific composting conditions, such as proper temperature, moisture, oxygen levels, and microbial activity, found in industrial composting facilities.

Packaging Examples

Some biodegradable plastics, such as certain types of PLA (Polylactic Acid).

Certified compostable materials, such as compostable plastics (PLA, PHA), paper-based products, and certain plant-based materials like bagasse or palm leaf.


No specific certification required, leading to varying claims and confusion.

Certified by recognised organisations, such as the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) or the Compostable Products Standard (EN 13432), ensuring adherence to specific composting standards.


Biodegradable materials may not fully break down in landfills, contributing to waste accumulation. Proper disposal and access to composting facilities are essential.

Compostable materials require appropriate composting facilities for efficient breakdown. Check for certification labels to ensure proper disposal.


While biodegradable packaging is an excellent alternative to plastic; compostable packaging is generally considered the better option for its ability to convert into nutrient-rich soil, its defined breakdown time frame, and its adherence to specific composting standards through certification. 

Our Mála Mailers are both home (EN13432) and commercially (EN13432) Compostable, even the adhesive strip too!

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