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What is the difference between compostable, biodegradable and biobased?

You see and hear it everywhere; horticulture also needs to become more sustainable. More people are asking for compostable, biodegradable and biologic products. Consumers have an increasing amount of attention for sustainability and the environment. With biodegradable, biobased and compostable growth- and packaging material a grower can respond to this. In practice it seems there is some confusion about the difference between the terms compostable, biodegradable and biobased. That is why we are happy to explain the differences here.

Biologic products

The confusion often starts with the term 'organic'. An organic product is a product of organic origin. An example of an organic product is, for example, an organic fertilizer or unsprayed fruit and vegetables. These are products that are entirely made up of natural raw materials of vegetable or animal origin.

Wat is het verschil tussen composteerbaar en biologisch afbreekbaar?


Biodegradable (also called compostable) means that a product or packaging can degrade on a natural way by fungus and bacteria to water, CO2 and methane. It says nothing about the speed with which this happens and under what circumstances. Biodegradable products may therefore not just go into the green waste container. For example, cork, cotton, hair and pieces of wood are all biodegradable, but the degradation takes a very long time.

There are also plastics that are biodegradable. Contrary to what many people think, biodegradable plastics are currently not degradable in nature or in fermentation plants.

Previously, biodegradable plastic packaging that meets the European standard EN-13432 was allowed to be thrown away in the green waste. According to that standard in The Netherlands, a packaging must be able to be broken down for at least 95 percent within 6 weeks in an industrial composting installation. You can recognize these packages by the Seedling logo or the OK Compost logo.

In recent years, the processes of composting installations have been greatly accelerated. The plastic no longer breaks down fast enough and remains in the compost. Plastic packaging with the Seedling logo or the OK compost logo can therefore no longer be thrown away in the green waste, but belongs to the residual waste. An exception has been made for compostable waste bags, which are allowed in green waste bins. Source: Waste Management World

Can all compostable packaging (EN 1342) be added in the kitchen and garden waste bin?


It is advised to only add compostable packaging to the organic waste if these are a 'carrier' of organic waste. For example, it could be a compostable garbage bag full of kitchen waste or a compostable cellophane around a (spoiled) cucumber. Compostable packaging adds nothing to the produced compost. The compostable plastic is converted into water and carbon dioxide during the composting process. The added value of the compostable packaging is therefore mainly in the easy 'transport' of organic waste to the organic waste bin (and thereby increasing the separation efficiency of organic waste). Source: BVOR (Dutch)

Are biobased and biodegradable the same?

No, the terms "biobased" and "biodegradable" mean something else. Biobased refers to the raw material from which a product is made, while biodegradable refers to the final phase of the product. Biobased means that the product is made from renewable, natural resources, such as corn or potatoes. Examples of this are plastic types based on sugars or sugar cane (such as PLA plastic). Biobased products are not always biodegradable. Bioplastics are often labelled as either one of, or a combination of biobased, biodegradable or compostable. Source: Waste Management World

Biobased material

We have a series of 100% biobased sleeves in our assortment. These sleeves are made of renewable material PLA and they are printed with waterbased ink.

PLA (Polylactic Acid) is a biobased thermoplastic and alifatic polyester, derived from renewable and organic sources such as corn starch and sugar cane. PLA is a good first step in replacing new plastic that is often used for, for example, disposable plastic dishes and garbage bags. PLA is very similar to ordinary plastic, but it is more sensitive to heat and light, which speeds up the composting process.

This material is not made of fossil fuels, in contrast to traditional plastics. It is made from renewable sources such as sugar cane or corn, which is not at the expense of food. Although these sleeves are biodegradable, they cannot be composted industrially in professional composting installations, because in general, these installations have a lead time of two weeks. PLA needs at least 12 weeks to be fully composted. Because the composition of PLA does not lend itself to the reuse of plastic, it is currently recommended that PLA be disposed of with the residual waste.

No solution for litter

Often the advantage of biobased plastic is that it is compostable. But in the meantime the lead time in special composting machines has become so short (1 to 2 weeks) that biobased plastic is not eligible for this because it decays too slowly, let alone in nature or on the street. Biobased plastic is therefore not a solution for the litter problem. Moreover: if it decays in a composting machine, it does not produce compost but falls apart in water and CO2. At most, it provides a little energy when it is first fermented. On the compost heap at home, on the roadside or on the street, things are going (too) slowly.

PLA sleeves are not allowed in the plastic waste because they have a different composition than ordinary plastic. Dispose of this material with the residual waste. Do the same with all the other plastic that has the OK Compost or Seedling logo on it. Bags, sleeves and trays without a logo but biobased, (made from sugar cane, corn, or starch) may be disposed of with the plastic waste. These plastics have the same composition as 'ordinary' plastic that is made from petroleum.

Conclusion: Things are going well at the front, since we use renewable resources. At the end of the process, it should simply be disposed of with the residual waste. On the other hand, the power plants are happy with it, because renewable material such as PLA gives a high energetic value when it is burned.
Plastic is not that bad, as long as it is returned to the right container, making recycling possible. Koen Pack prefers recycling.

PLA Biodegradable

PLA Biodegradable

PLA Biodegradable

Some features of PLA

  • PLA is a biopolymer and stands for 'Polylactic Acid or Polylactid'
  • It is one of the most well-known and most sustainable biobased plastics
  • This material is not made, like traditional plastics, from fossil fuels, but from renewable raw materials, namely sugar cane and maize, which is not at the expense of food
  • It gives a meaningful destination to agricultural waste
  • Because the sleeves are degradable, they can be composed of according to the cradle to cradle principle after use
  • Sleeves can be thrown away together with organic waste
  • PLA is 100% industrially compostable in professional composting plants
  • It can be processed mechanically in various ways and therefore offers many packaging possibilities
  • From PLA we can produce flower and plant sleeves and foil sheets
  • Printing is possible, just like with foil made of other materials
  • Water based colours are used for printing
  • The material is certified for composting according to EN13432 by Dincertco.

  • Check the collection of PLA sleeves>>

    More information about the possibilities, availability and prices you will find in the web shop. It is also possible to develop your own customized organic packaging with printing. To do this, please send an email to sales-usa@koenpack.com with your request and we will contact you!

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