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Compostable and biodegradable often are not the same thing! 🧐

It's no secret that sustainability buzzwords and eco-friendly packaging terminology have exploded in popularity in recent years. Figuring out whether you're holding biodegradable packaging (more on this tricky term shortly!), home compostable containers or certified compostable plastic packaging can be downright confusing! 🫤 Seriously, what the heck do these words mean, and how can you know if your sustainable packaging is what it says it is?

For starters, most of the currently available certified compostable containers in North America require controlled conditions in a commercial facility to properly and fully biodegrade within 180 days.

Compostable: For compostable packaging to be certified, it must break down into soil that is safe for growing new plants. This must happen within a set timeframe and in specific conditions (i.e. industrial or home compostable).

Biodegradable: The Wild West of unregulated sustainable packaging terms, biodegradable packaging will break down into natural elements, but it can take its sweet time doing so and can’t reliably be used to grow new stuff.

Oxo-degradable: Oxo-degradable packaging will break down into smaller fragments when exposed to sunlight, but the resulting tiny bits and pieces of plastic can live on indefinitely.




(adj.) Smells incredible, grows great edibles.


Compostable packaging in North America should be third party certified to break down into soil in a commercial composting facility within a set timeframe.




(adj.) Nobody tells me when to break down, ok?


This term means it will eventually break down, but there’s no standardized timeline. That means even Aunt Karen’s pound cake is technically biodegradable!




(adj.) The confetti of the packaging world.


It'll break down into much smaller fragments of exactly what it was before. Like that holiday glitter that gets everywhere and just never goes away. Ever.

Busting Myths:

FTC Green Guides help clarify your green claims.

The Federal Trade Commission continues to crack down on “greenwashing” and has extensive guidelines to help consumers get factual, straightforward information about eco-friendly products and packaging.

According to the FTC, biodegradable packaging may contain many ingredients, as long as they'll break down into natural elements over time. For example, biodegradable material can contain traces of metals or other additives, provided they're not synthetic.

Moving on to compostability, just because a raw material used to create packaging is compostable on its own (like corn, algae or sugarcane) doesn't mean the final packaging can be certified as compostable.

This is where the risk of “greenwashing” really begins. Even if the raw materials are certifiably compostable, the final packaging is what needs to be tested. Different thicknesses and manufacturing methods can greatly impact whether it will still reliably break down within the required timeframe to be labelled as compostable.

It's crucial to clearly define the benefits when it comes to sustainable packaging. Providing specific information about what your packaging contains and what consumers should do with it at the end of its useful life makes it easier for everyone to recognize good sustainable practices when they see 'em. 🙌

Verifying Claims:

Independent certifications ensure your compostable packaging is legit. 🌱

To make sure compostable packaging claims are not misleading, it's essential to back them up with science. Here at good natured®, we use the ASTM D6400 standard to test the compostability of our PLA packaging, confirming it will break down in a commercial compost facility within 180 days. We also stick to the FTC guidelines to clearly indicate this will only reliably happen in a commercial composting facility.

Additionally, most of our PLA food packaging has independent certifications from the Biodegradable Products Institute and/or the Compost Manufacturing Alliance.

These certifications give you confidence that the packaging has been tested and verified to meet the necessary standards for industrial composting in North America where the appropriate facilities exist.

Still got questions? We're here to help with guidance on whether you and your customers live in a region where commercial composting services are available or if you might want to consider a curbside recyclable material for your sustainable food packaging, like our plant-based Bio-PET.