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Biodegradable vs. Compostable: What’s the difference?

ESW Beauty has introduced compostability into their Raw Juice Cleanse Sheet Masks. After releasing their compostable Plant-Based Milk Sheet Masks, it was only natural that they phased in the same concept for their original line, which was previously only biodegradable without certification.

However, if you are anything like me, before educating myself, these two terms hold the same meaning. Well, they don't! While a compostable material is biodegradable, a biodegradable material is not always compostable. This was the case with the Raw Juice Cleanse Sheet Mask.

If you are still confused, here is the technical breakdown of the two terms so you have a better grasp of these two processes.

Photo by @Marcell Viragh on Unsplash

What is the definition of biodegradable?

To define biodegradability, it means that a material can be naturally broken down into smaller components such as sugars and gasses. This process of biodegradation occurs when microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, degrade into simple substances. These soluble substances can then be used as a source of nutrients by these organisms. Sometimes the materials that are being biodegraded, mix well into our soil, allowing for the soil to be fertilized.

What are some materials that are biodegradable?
  • Paper

  • Food waste

  • Human waste

  • Manure

  • Sewage sludge

  • Dead animals & plants

What are some materials that ARE NOT biodegradable?
  • Glass

  • Plastic

  • Metals

  • Hazardous substances

  • Pesticides

  • Fibers

  • E-waste

  • Artificial rubber

  • Artificial polymers, etc…

What is the definition of compostable?

Now that we’ve gone over the intimate details of what it means for a material to be biodegradable. It’s time to break down what it means for a material to be compostable. Again, to reiterate, just because something is biodegradable, does not mean it is compostable. However, all compostable materials are biodegradable.

Compostable means that a product has the ability to break down into natural elements in a compost environment; At-home, industrial, or marine compost environments. Due to the natural process of decomposition, it causes no harm to the environment. The time it takes to decompose typically varies depending on the type of material waste you are trying to compost. The intimate details of material being composted goes as such: The product undergoes a biochemical process of material conversion into water, carbon dioxide, methane and biomass.

What are some materials that are compostable?
  • ESW Sheet masks ✨

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Crushed eggshells

  • Coffee grounds and filters

  • Tea bags

  • Nut shells

  • Shredded newspaper

  • Shredded cardboard

  • Shredded paper

What are some materials that ARE NOT compostable?
  • Meat and Fish Scraps

  • Dairy, Fats, and Oils

  • Plants or Wood Treated with Pesticides or Preservatives

  • Black Walnut Tree Debris

  • Diseased or Insect-Infested Plants

  • Weeds that Have Gone to Seed

  • Charcoal Ash

  • Dog or Cat Waste

Though biodegradability and compostability are similar, they are not the same. Biodegradable is a collective term for this biochemical process, but can occur in different environments under various conditions and timeframes. With the information, you can now successfully begin composting! So enjoy the guilt-free sheet masks at your leisure.


ESW Beauty Raw Juice Sheet Masks.jpg

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Explore the brand behind the blog! We are ESW Beauty, a clean skincare brand inspired by healthy living! All of our products are formulated with clean & vegan ingredients, are cruelty free, and made sustainably. Learn more about us below!

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