Is it Really Compostable?

Searching for compostable products can be tricky. There are many misleading terms and different certifications you may encounter. Like a truly compostable product, we’ll help you break it down:

  • First, know that “biodegradable” is not the same as “compostable.”

Although both biodegradable and compostable products may break down over time, these two terms are not interchangeable. While something that is biodegradable will eventually break down, some products misleadingly use a “biodegradable” label for a product that can take years or more to break down. And unlike compostable items which break down into organic matter that is beneficial for soil, a biodegradable product can decompose and leave behind inorganic or even toxic residues.

For these reasons, many composting facilities do not accept products labeled as biodegradable. Check IWMA’s Recycling Guide on proper disposal options.

  • Look for certified compostable products. 

For a product to be labeled as compostable, it must meet certain standards in the U.S., such as the “ASTM D6400” standard which requires products to completely decompose in a commercial composting facility within a specific time frame. Luckily, there is an easily identifiable compostable logo by third-party company BPI that certifies that a product is compostable — and you are even able to look for certified compostable products on its site

  • Know that even if something is labeled compostable, it has to go to the right place!

Unfortunately, even a certified compostable product is of little help if it goes to the landfill, where conditions do not allow for proper decomposition. Make sure you place it in the proper cart / bin. Keep in mind also that some compostable products, such as those made of bioplastics, are designed to break down only in a commercial composting setting — and should not be used for at-home composting.

Remember that compostable products still require resources to produce and dispose of, so whenever possible, aim for products you can use over and over again. Keep on staying green and great!