What does biodegradable mean?
Every time you do a food shop, you might check the labels to see if the packaging can be recycled. If the word ‘biodegradable’ pops up, you may be even more confident that you’re helping to reduce the amount of pollution that enters our environment. But biodegradable can be a misleading term, and it may be even be harmful for the planet.
Biodegradable essentially means that an item can be broken down into increasingly smaller pieces by bacteria, fungi or microbes to be reabsorbed by the surrounding environment, ideally without causing any pollution. Some things are naturally biodegradable, like food and plants, while other items can break down into harmful chemicals or gases.
The trouble is, everything we use or create can be called biodegradable because eventually everything will break down – from organic waste and wooden cutlery to pladtic packaging or steel machinery. It could just take a very, very long time. So, putting the word ‘biodegradable’ on food labels isn’t very helpful for anyone trying to make greener shopping choices.
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