All materials will biodegrade eventually, however long that eventually is. The length of that process depends on humidity and temperature.
All compostable plastics are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable plastics would become compostable.
Biodegradable items will start breaking down into smaller pieces naturally, but it could take from 6 months to 100 years for the process to be completed. That is where the term “biodegradable” might be confusing or misleading in some cases.
Compostable products need higher temperatures to biodegrade, which means that they must be disposed of in the specially designated composting facility.
Food is fully compostable, and it will completely break down. For example, loose tea leaves and apple core can decompose in your home compost. But compostable food packaging won’t break down in your garden and needs much higher temperature that can only be achieved in the industrial composter.
Materials that follow international and European standards will break down within 12 weeks and biodegrade in at least 90% within 180 days in an industrial composting facility. When the compost created by those materials is sold for gardening or to agriculture, the international and European standards help to ensure that it will be free of toxins.
Water, carbon dioxide, and biomass are considered to be compostable materials because they break down thoroughly without leaving a toxic trace behind. However, for that to happen, they need to be under the right conditions that only industrial composter can create.
The positive thing about biodegradable items is that they aren’t made from oil and leave no chemical trace behind, as long as they are disposed under the right conditions. Otherwise, they can be as problematic to the environment as standard plastic. Countries that haven’t developed recycling plants or refuse collections, often chug rubbish in dumps, throw them into the rivers (that will end up in the sea or will be left in the water to rot) or simply burn them.
It’s vital to support poorer countries to dispose of their rubbish correctly. Looking after the environment is a collective effort, and not a single country can say that it’s not their problem what others do with their garbage. Understanding and being mindful of what is biodegradable and what is compostable is a good start towards building environmental awareness within the global society.