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Understanding eco definitions

By Frank McDouall, Director, Bonnie Bio


“Compostable” by definition means that a material is able to decompose back into natural elements such as biomass, water and CO2 without leaching any toxins into the environment during the decomposition process. Only organic / natural products can compost and this is the most ecologically sustainable answer for a full circle ecosystem. It is also a sustainable solution for managing finite resources and for avoiding adverse consequential effects of the current global pollution crisis such as toxic discharge. Compostable products when decomposed, add nutrients to the environment that they have decomposed in – healthy soil.


“Biodegradable” on its own does not live up to Bonnie Bio’s standards. Conventional plastic is generally not biodegradable whereas paper is biodegradable. Biodegradable means that a material is able to decompose back into natural elements such as biomass, water, CO2 as well as methane and inorganic compounds (this is not ideal). In summary, not all by-products of the biodegradable decomposition process are desirable. Not all things biodegradable are compostable, yet all things compostable are biodegradable.


“Recyclable” or “Reusable” mean well, but are just unfortunate green-washing terms that are inevitably “kicking the can further down the road”. There is more than enough physical and visual evidence around the world (landfills, dumping grounds, river and ocean pollution to name but a few) that highlights the collective failure of generalised recycling. Other reasons for failure are the inability to recycle recyclables, the lack of achieving a viable economic cost of recovery and cross contamination of disposed materials. Products made out of recycled plastic are definite pollution makers as these products cannot be recycled any further and come to end of life when disposed. Examples of such products and scenarios : the cool drink bottle is empty / the handle breaks on the reusable shopping bag made out of recycled plastic. These terms and systems are nothing short of professional green-washing.


“Degradable” is another term that would fall within the professional green-washing category. A typical example of a degradable product is a product made with conventional plastic that has an additive added to the material that will chemically break the product down into micro and nano plastics and no further. Degradable products typically use chemical reactions to degrade rather than the organic use of micro-organisms to degrade, hence why degradable products unfortunately further contribute to the very issue that we are trying to avoid, the proliferation of micro and nano plastics in our natural and only environment. An example of degradable plastic materials are Oxo-degradable products, which are made from conventional plastic and are then treated/covered with a chemical additive.


When our products break down, they break down consistently with other natural materials. At Bonnie Bio, we’re proud to say that our bio-based internationally certified compostable and biodegradable plastic alternatives have been manufactured to comply with the following international standards: EN 13432, AS 5810, ASTM D6400, ASTM D6868 and carry the DIN CERTCO, CE, FDA and Seedling logos. We are the only company in South Africa to have international certifications. To shop Bonnie Bio's range of certified compostable and biodegradable products, please click here.


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