Definition of biodegradation:

Biodegradation is the process by which microorganisms break down organic matter. Depending on the material, this can take days, weeks or even centuries. Products that biodegrade quickly are preferable to those that don’t; their harmful contents can be broken down in a shorter period of time.

What is biodegradation?

Natural materials such as wood gradually break down into their component parts when left in the environment. This is due to the action of naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, in a process known as “biodegradation”. Most industrial chemicals, however, will not biodegrade, and often remain in the environment for years or even decades.

In an effort to mitigate the impact of their products on the environment, companies are increasingly making more of their portfolios biodegradable. Biodegradation is an important factor in lowering the environmental impact of products at the end of their lifecycles.

Why is biodegradation important?

Biodegradation helps to minimize the environmental impact of products that appear in the environment – ensuring they decompose into less harmful products (water, biomass, and CO2). It is also helpful from a recyclability standpoint because it allows raw materials to be reclaimed and reused more easily at the end of a product’s lifecycle.

Are all bio-based materials biodegradable?

Bio-based materials are not necessarily biodegradable. It all depends on the chemical processes used to produce the material in question, and the amount of bio-based raw materials used in its production. In general, however, bio-based raw materials perform better on environmental measures than fossil-based alternatives.

What is the future of biodegradable materials?

Biodegradable materials are increasingly used across various industries, from plastics to chemicals and even fashion and footwear. Biodegradability is also a key focus area of frameworks such as the EU’s Circular economy action plan (CEAP) and Plastics strategy – both of which encourage the development of more biodegradable solutions.

The biodegradable plastic segment, in particular, is a key growth area as governments worldwide take measures to reduce the impact of single-use plastics on the environment. According to Allied Market Research, the biodegradable global plastic market is expected to be worth USD 4.2 billion by 2027, up from USD 1.6 billion in 2019. For instance, natural bioplastic material is being developed that could make cars fully biodegradable.

What is the difference between biodegradable and compostable?

All compostable materials are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable materials are compostable. “Compostable” refers to a material that biodegrades under a specific set of circumstances (temperature, humidity, airflow) to produce an end product that is beneficial to soil health. Any statement about composting needs to be accompanied by a third-party certification using ISO standards (e.g., EN 13432 or EN 14995).

“Biodegradable”, on the other hand, simply refers to products and materials that break down into a few natural elements, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. Just as with compostable materials, the right environmental circumstances must be present for this to happen.

Not done, learning today?

No worries, we’ve got you covered. At Stahl, we are committed to transitioning toward a circular economy: increasing the biodegradability of our products will play a key role in that endeavor.
You can find out more about how Stahl is increasing our use of biodegradable chemicals check out these articles here: