These two words are often used to mean the same thing, even by professionals in the composting industry. But, they actually mean different things. It is important to know what each means, especially if you are producing compost to sell.


This word refers to materials that can break down into natural elements in compost by natural biological processes. These types of compost ingredients don’t cause harm to the environment, while decomposing or when used in a final compost product. They produce CO2, water, and inorganic compounds, but leave no visible residue once they have become part of the final compost product.


Materials that break down into mostly harmless compounds can be considered biodegradable. The term shows up on many products like soap or shampoo, and can even refer to product packaging. Plant-based, animal-based, and natural mineral-based products can be biodegradable, but they will degrade differently based on a few factors. These include how the items were processed and what their natural and artificial properties are.

Although it is not required to be considered biodegradable, most materials that are, break down faster than non-biodegradable products like plastic. That being said, not all biodegradable materials are plants. Many are derived from plants like paper and cardboard. These days bioplastics, though composting them is not recommended unless you have the proper equipment and knowledge.

So, what’s the difference between compostable and biodegradable?

All compostable materials are biodegradable because a natural process created by bacteria, algae, or fungi will break them down. However, not all biodegradable materials are compostable. The main difference between the two is that although biodegradables do break down, they sometimes leave residues, including metal, as well as nutrients. They can so take much longer to degrade completely.

It is vital to know the difference between these two words because of how ingredients affect the final product. When you are selling compost to be used as fertilizer, the idea is to improve the health of the soil. If there are any toxic residues, they could affect the soil and plants negatively. Remember, biodegradable really just refers to the ability of a product to degrade naturally over time, unlike artificial plastics and other long-lasting materials.

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