XYBIO > Bolg > FAQQ:What does biodegradable, based, and compostable mean?
Q:What does biodegradable, based, and compostable mean?
Biodegradable occurs when under the right conditions the microbes in the environment can break down materials and use them as food source. It is a process that can take place in many environments including soils, compost sites, water treatment facilities, marine environments and even in the human body. This is the process that converts carbon into energy and maintains life.
In order for plastic to biodegrade they must go through a two-step process:
The long polymer chains are shortened at the carbon-carbon bonds. This process can be initiated by heat, moisture, microbial enzymes, or other environmental conditions depending on the polymer. This step is called "degradation" and you know it is occuring because the plastic becomes weak and will easily fragment. 
The shorter carbon chains pass through the cell walls of the microbes and are used as an energy source. Biodegradation occurs when the carbon chains are utilized as a food source and are fully converted into water, biomass, and carbon dioxide. 
Biobased: materials that are derived in whole or part from biomass resources. Biomass resources are organic materials that are available on a renewable or recurring basis such as crop residues, wood residues, grasses, and aquatic plants. Corn ethanol is a well known example of biobased material derived from biomass resources. 
Biobased product is a product that contains some amount of biobased material within it. The term is typically applied only to materials containing carbon. 
Compostable (or composting) is a process where you can combine yard, garden, and organic (food) waste together and make your own soil building nutrients and plant fertilizer. Home composting is a way for you to speed up the natural process of decomposition and return organic materials to the soil. Yard trimmings and food scraps make up nearly 1/6 of what the average household throws into the garbage, by composting you are reducing the amount sent to landfill.

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