Biodegradable and compostable packaging – what is the difference?

15 Aug, 2022
The level of plastic production and pollution that humanity has achieved in the last few decades makes us implement changes in, among others, the branch of packaging. Environment-friendly solutions aren’t just a suggestion anymore. They’re becoming a necessity. People talk more and more about introducing such resources to the market that can be a great eco-friendly alternative to plastic products as soon as today.

What will you learn from this article?

  • What are the characteristics of compostable and biodegradable packaging?
  • Is biodegradable packaging really ecological?
  • Why choose compostable packaging?

Biodegradable packaging

Is it really eco?

One of the solutions that is supposed to reduce plastic and help the production of eco-friendly packaging is to introduce biodegradable materials to the market.

Biodegradable packaging degrade in the environment when influenced by natural factors such as light, humidity, water, temperature or the presence of microorganisms, and shouldn’t leave any harmful leftover substances. However, there are various harmful gimmicks and greenwashing techniques on the market, so you should make use of services from reliable suppliers. If something is labelled biodegradable, it means that, in theory, it should decompose in the natural environment, but there are no fixed time frames for that.

Theoretically, you could say that plastic is biodegradable, because in a perspective of 1000 years it will eventually degrade (or rather – brittle) into microplastic. So, when we hear that a product is biodegradable, we should seek answers to the following:

  • How long will it take for it to degrade? (the longer, the less eco)
  • Into what will it degrade? (does it leave organic substances only or microplastic)
  • What exactly causes the product to degrade? (Water? Microorganisms? Oxygen?)

Stay alert

This is why you should be cautious when buying biodegradable packages, because just the term “biodegradable packaging” doesn’t guarantee that it’s indeed friendly to the environment. Of course, biodegradability is, in itself, something good. For example, paper or banana peel are naturally biodegradable and eco. Choose those companies’ services that treat ecology seriously.

Use companies that take ecology seriously

The term “biodegradable” is often used by different people with a different meaning. Some companies use the words “compostable” and “biodegradable” interchangeably, which results in being able to find “biodegradable poly mailers”, which are actually compostable, but producers use the former term because it’s simply more known.

Why is it worth to choose compostable materials?

1) Decompose to substances that are safe to the environment

Compostable packaging turns into organic substances such as water, carbon dioxide and so-called biohummus – an organic material rich in various nutrients that can naturally be found in soil. Thanks to that, a compostable package can return to nature and enrich the soil as compost.

2) Decompose under controlled conditions

The process of composting starts when the material meets natural factors: light, humidity, proper temperature and the presence of microorganisms. The difference is that composting occurs under controlled conditions (in either home or industrial compost bin). The most effective method of composting is industrial composting. Held in special institutions, our packaging has the best conditions for this process ensured. In contrast to home compost bins, industrial composting involves higher temperature and lower pressure, so that they can be used to utilise any package of natural origin, e.g. bioplastic, cardboard and paper.

Some packages can be processed in home composting bins. However, it’s much harder to do. Installing such a compost bin at home requires a lot of effort, time, place and money.

3) Have a precise degradation time

Unlike biodegradable packaging, compostable packages have a very precise time of degradation, which is usually 60-180 days.

4) Have certificates issued by laboratories

The ecological properties of compostable packaging are demonstrated by certificates issued by independent certification bodies.

There are several certification bodies and types of certificates, but the most important thing is that the materials are tested in a very specific way, so that we can be sure that the product is ecological.

Compostable materials and the packaging industry

More and more is said that the eco-friendly packaging branch has to grow. Modern technologies and deeper knowledge about this topic makes it possible to create a lot of materials which can successfully replace plastic. They have almost the same characteristics. You can create packaging that will e.g. hold food or secure a product during delivery.

Compostable packaging is flexible

There are plenty of options to choose from. Now, eco packages are so diverse and have so many features that everyone will find a product that meets the needs. You can choose, among others, boxes, single-use food containers, bags, poly mailers, bubble wraps, tapes, labels and many more.

Opakowania kompostowalne Znika, wszechstronne rozwiązania

Biodegradable vs. compostable packaging

Taśma kompostowalna

Information on biodegradable and compostable materials is similar. What differentiates biodegradable and compostable packaging?

Biodegradable packaging degrade to various substances and there is no one rule how they should do so. In principle, it happens without human involvement in an uncontrolled manner.

The case is different with compostable packaging, which will decompose to such materials that not only won’t affect the environment negatively, but also will be a valuable resource to it. It can have a huge amount of minerals and elements that enrich the soil [7].

Why should your company choose compostable packaging?

1) Give up plastic!

Powody, dla których warto zrezygnować z plastiku w firmie

Both the production and demand for plastic is very high and still increasing. As for now there is 8 billion tonnes plastic in the world [1]. Unfortunately, a huge part of it has ended up in the environment where it causes irreversible changes. It already has catastrophic results.

The plastic industry is one of the main branches of global economy. Nowadays, plastic is omnipresent and is a foundation of many companies’ activities [3]. Both the plastic production processing plants and their clients should be aware of the destructive impact this particular material has on the environment. Especially that even today we can contribute to environment protection. Every one of us can be more eco – it’s possible thanks to bioplastic.

Bioplastic is what was already mentioned – compostable and fully biodegradable materials. Among them, we count materials made from plants and renewable resources (either fully or partially). They are produced from e.g. sugar cane, starch and all sorts of waste biomass [2]. Bioplastic is definitely the best method of fighting against plastic

2) Plastic packaging poisons the environment

The packaging market is one of the biggest poisoner of the environment [4]. It’s responsible for enormous amounts of produced plastic. Experts have warned us for a long time now how this material is exceptionally harmful to the whole ecosystem.

It influences health of humans and other living organisms – according to the National Geographic magazine, by 2050 every seabird will have plastic inside their bodies [5]! Microplastic molecules have been detected even in human placenta [6].

3) Biodegradable and compostable packages are better to the environment

Compostable packages, especially the compostable ones, can be an answer to all those problems. Firstly, such packaging decomposes and simply disappears from the environment; they can even be a source of valuable nutrients and minerals. Secondly, they leave much lower carbon footprint. For the companies that want to implement eco-friendly compostable packaging it would mean, above all, lowering the emission of dangerous greenhouse gases.

4) Consumers are becoming more aware

Saszetka kompostowalna Znika
Eco-awareness of clients will be constantly increasing. Nowadays, more and more people want to go eco. It’s important to meet their needs and adjust to their beliefs.
Biodegradable eco packages are a perfect way to achieve this goal. Such packaging can contribute to companies’ image improvement and enriching their offer.

5) Compostable packaging is in no way worse than plastic

Biodegradable packages, especially the compostable ones, have very similar characteristics to those made from non-eco materials. Eco-friendly packaging of this type is of good quality and is light, waterproof and flexible. It fulfils its role while not endangering the environment.

Caution: greenwashing!

When making a decision about changing regular packaging to the eco one, you have to remember that not every material advertised as biodegradable and compostable is really like that. Some of them are just portrayed as environment-friendly, while in reality they don’t meet the rules regarding the sustainable development policy.


Not every bio = eco!

The moral is simple. Not every package that is called “bio” is really friendly to the environment. There are a lot of materials which names are evocative of bioplastic, but actually have nothing to do with it.

A good example of that is biobased plastic made from renewable resources. Yet, they are neither biodegradable nor compostable.

There is a similar problem with the so-called oxo-biodegradable products. They are dangerous to the environment because through the oxidation process they decompose to microplastic [7].

Very often there are packages that are made e.g. with 20% recycled materials are painted green and pretend to be environment-friendly.

What is the lesson?

Ekologiczne opakowania jednorazowe

If we run a business today that uses disposable packaging, we should consider switching from ordinary plastic packaging that is harmful to the environment to packaging that, firstly, will not contribute to climate change and, secondly, will not languish in the environment for thousands of years. There are really many reasons to invest in such packaging.

ZNIKA packaging is much more environmentally friendly than its plastic counterparts. They are made from plant-based products and meet compostability standards primarily in industrial settings.

If you do not yet have eco-friendly compostable packaging in your company, then visit our shop page. You can find suggestions for fully environmentally friendly, natural products for packaging and shipping. Find out what bioplastics have to offer and bet on protecting the environment.

Our offer does not end there. ZNIKA was established to facilitate the introduction of compostable packaging, into the market. If you are looking for something special, tailored to specific products, get in touch with us and we will create your ideal, environmentally friendly packaging.


See our solutions!


  1. OurWorldinData - Plastic Pollution,

  2. Plastics Europe, Branża tworzyw sztucznych w pandemii, 2020/2021.

  3. Teraz środowisko, Bioplastiki - tworzywo przyszłości.

  4. Deloitte, Sektor opakowań to branża, która w pierwszej kolejności będzie musiała znaleźć sposób na skuteczny recykling odpadów z plastiku.

  5. National Geographic, To przerażające. Do 2050 roku KAŻDY morski ptak będzie nosił w sobie plastik.

  6. Plasticenta, First evidence of microplastics in human placenta - Environment International.

  7. Teraz środowisko, Biotworzywa. Nieśmiały trend czy konieczność, której nie uniknie przemysł?

  8. European environment agency, Biodegradable and compostable plastics — challenges and opportunities.