Confused by lengthy industry articles and eco-lingo that you can’t quite get your head around? We’ve got you covered. Here’s our helpful guide to using and disposing of biodegradable products.

Environmental terminology can be a bit of a minefield. Once you’ve finally got a grasp on what each eco-friendly product can and can’t do, you then need to know how to properly dispose of it so it can return to the earth as quickly and safely as possible.

To help build your bio-knowledge, we’ve answered some common questions relating to biodegradable products.

What does ‘biodegradable’ mean?

To start with, it’s important to know what the term ‘biodegradable’ really means. If an item is biodegradable, it’s saying it can break down naturally in the environment.

Which products are biodegradable?

Anything that is plant-based, animal-based or natural mineral-based is usually biodegradable. Because We Care Australia products are all, of course, biodegradable, but so are certain packaging materials, paper and cardboard boxes … basically anything with the ability to slowly degenerate until it’s consumed on a microscopic level. Biodegradable products are generally harmless when returned to the earth, however, some may leave a residue behind. This could be a non-degradable ink that has been printed on packaging or some other small man-made addition to the product.

How do I dispose of a product that’s biodegradable?

For a biodegradable product to break down, it must be disposed of in a composting environment and undergo degradation from naturally occurring microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi and algae. When disposed of into landfills, biodegradable products become buried under other garbage and cannot get the oxygen they need to trigger the decomposing process. Without oxygen, biodegradable products break down anaerobically, which creates harmful methane gas (a greenhouse gas that’s bad for the environment). As a rule, when disposing of biodegradable products, always opt for a home or commercial compost heap or if the product specifies, send it to a recycling plant.

How long do biodegradable products take to decompose?

Biodegradable products all break down at different rates, ranging from 90 days to several years. The rate of biodegrading depends on the item’s material make-up and on whether the right conditions are present (things like moisture, heat and oxygen). Biodegradable products are designed to break down more easily than regular plastic and be safer for the environment. However, if the right environmental factors are not present, these items may take just as long as regular plastics to decompose. Materials that meet industry standards and are certified will break down effectively in virtually all composting systems.

Learn how to start a home compost in 4 easy steps.