Recyclable v Biodegradable – what’s the difference?

Here at Vectair, we recognise that the environment is important, and dedicate our time to ensuring our products and industrial processes are recyclable where possible, ethical, environmentally friendly and economically viable – ‘Greener’ & ‘Cleaner’ are our middle names!

We have actually been recognised by international organisations such as The International Green Apple Awards for our work to promote environmental best practice and minimise our environmental impact.

We minimise and manage the disposal of waste where possible to ensure as much as recycled as possible and have also reduced the amount of non-recyclable materials we use down to the bare minimum. 

With that in mind, what is the difference between recyclable materials and materials that are biodegradable? Both sound good and both usually come with green, eco-friendly looking labelling, so where do the differences lie?

Recyclable

  • Can’t be reused in current form (may have been reused previously but has now reached the end of its life) but can be taken to a recycling centre to be disassembled and recycled. Think of batteries or cardboard boxes, for example.
  • Can be disposed of in recycling bins, sorted by product/material type. This will ensure they go to the correct recycling facility.
  • Any recyclable materials that cannot yet be disposed of into normal recycling bins (such as cling film or toothpaste tubes), can be taken to specialist recycling centres – see your local council website for further information.
  • Recycling diverts waste from going to landfill

Biodegradable

  • Cannot be reused (think disposable nappies for example) but can be disposed of in your normal rubbish collection
  • Will break down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass within a “reasonable timeframe” in the natural environment (i.e. landfill).
  • Most landfill areas lack the micro-organisms and oxygen that is required to ensure biodegrading happens quickly, so a “reasonable timeframe” can stretch over long periods of time, surpassing 100 years in some cases.

Stats show the amount of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) alone being sent to landfill in 2016 was approx. 7.7million tonnes, much the same as the previous year – whilst later stats have not yet been released, it is important that this figure continues to decrease as increases in technology mean that more products and materials can be recycled instead of just sent to landfill.

It is estimated that 32.2 million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste was sent to landfill in 2016; again, this is on a par with 2015 but has reduced from the 42.4 million tonnes reported in 2010. This can only decrease as long as businesses are on board with using recyclable materials and disposing of waste in the correct manner.

Next time you go to throw an aluminium can in the general waste bin or get rid of a cardboard box, stop and think… Can that can be recycled and not sit in the landfill for the next 100 years? Can it go on to be something else useful? Can that box be reused so fewer trees have to be cut down to produce another identical box?

It’s important that we all do our bit to reduce our carbon footprint and keep our planet green; we’re doing ours, are you?

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