Recycling vs. Composting: Which Is Better for the Environment?

recycling vs composting bins

Which is more sustainable, composting or recycling? Learn more about composting and recycling and find out which option to choose when disposing of takeaway packaging.

Ever wondered which disposal method is the most beneficial for the environment: composting or recycling?

The good news is that when both are done correctly, our contribution to landfill is reduced, and working towards zero waste is far more probable. Both provide a way of extracting value from waste but are not applicable to the same materials.

So what's the difference, exactly?

What’s the difference between composting and recycling?

The main difference between these two disposal methods? Composting is for organic products, such as food and plant-based produce, whereas another recycling is for paper, glass, and plastics.

Composting is the natural breakdown of organic products over time. Fungi, bacteria, insects, worms and other organisms break down organic waste to produce nutrient-rich compost.

For centuries, we have been able to harness nature’s power by managing this decomposition process in controlled conditions and dedicated spaces, from small home compost bins to large industrial composting facilities.

Recycling of paper, glass, and plastics, on the other hand, is not a natural process and – like composting – requires knowledge and vigilance as both a consumer and a manufacturer. Recycling involves separating waste and processing it (mechanically or chemically) in order to make the materials ready for reuse into new products.

While recycling is an important step towards achieving a circular economy, depending on the processes involved and the nature of the waste, recycling can be energy-intensive or produce by-product chemicals.

What can I recycle?

Recycling is an important step towards achieving a circular economy. By recycling plastics, glass, and polythene correctly, we’re preventing a huge amount of waste from ending up in landfills.

What you can (and can’t) recycle differs from council to council. This is why checking your local council guidelines is necessary for knowing exactly what you can put in your kerbside bins.

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It’s also crucial that recyclable materials are kept separate from organic waste. If a bin load of recycling is mixed with a liquid substance or food scraps, the entire bin is contaminated and cannot be recycled.

What can I compost?

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There are two types of composting: commercial, and home composting.

Commercial composting requires a commercial compost facility to ensure rapid biodegradation of organic material. Critical mass, systematic aeration and controlled feedstock and humidity levels ensure that the materials reach a temperature of 60 degrees, which is required for some materials like hard bioplastics to breakdown.

Home composting, on the other hand, can be done at home. Temperatures are generally lower, which means that the process will be slower and that some materials will not breakdown easily.

Here’s what you can compost:

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BioPak’s compostable packaging

Our compostable products range is certified commercially compostable (EN13432) as well as home-compostable (NF T51-800). BioPak’s Compostable product range provides businesses with the opportunity to work towards the circular economy, helping reduce our negative impact on the environment.

BioPak's compostable productsBioPak's compostable products

The preferred end-of-life option for compostable packaging that is contaminated with food scraps is composting, as these materials cannot be recycled.

However, a number of our fibre-based products can be recycled, too — so long as there is no food or drink residue remaining on the packaging. Check our labels for guidance.

Our packaging is made from renewable resources. Therefore, it has a far smaller CO2 footprint than conventional plastics, which means that if our products do end up in landfills, the ramifications on the environment are far less damaging.