What are bio-based and biodegradable materials?
Looking at the rapid acceleration of climate change, environmental degradation, and the growth of the global population, the need for sustainable products, processes and solutions is evident. We live in a time that calls out for change – for sustainable solutions to ever more severe problems.
In the search for solutions to these challenges, bio-based, biodegradable and compostable materials are emerging in our daily lives as alternatives to currently dominant, conventional materials, and in particularly plastics. They are used in applications such as packaging, which accounts for almost half the demand for such plastics, followed by consumer goods and textiles, as well as in sectors like agriculture, transport and construction.
Bio-based materials: are fully or partially made from biological resources, rather than fossil based raw materials. They are not necessarily biodegradable or compostable. Bio-based materials should be adopted when they are better for the environment than their fossil resource counterparts.
Biodegradable materials: biodegrade in certain conditions at their end of life. Biodegradable materials should be used when they are intended to be released into open environment where they cannot be easily retrieved, for example, in agricultural mulch films, bio-lubricants for wind turbines, and fishing gear.
Compostable materials: a subset of biodegradable ones – decompose in home and/or industrial composting facilities, depending on their purpose, and how they have been certified. Compostable materials should be used when carrying beverage residues, plant waste or soil to composting or AD facilities; when material is too small, flimsy, flexible, multi-laminated and hard to recycle in any other waste streams; when made of non-compostable plastic, product currently contaminates biowaste stream, for example, carrier bags, food waste bin caddy liners, tea bags, coffee pods, fruit and veg stickers, condiment sachets
Biodegradable and compostable materials may be made from biological resources or fossil based raw materials. These materials should be used when it is not possible to reduce, reuse or recycle, in line with the circular economy and waste hierarchy principles.