Biodegradable and Non Biodegradable

Biodegradable and Non Biodegradable Waste and Its Difference

We produce a lot of wastes on a daily routine and throw them away or discard them. These substances include kitchen waste like vegetables and fruit peels, empty cartons, used tea leaves, and so many expendable items like juices, plastic bags, paper, old clothes, old footwear etc. Many of these materials like paper, vegetable and fruit peels can be easily broken down by the action of bacteria or other decomposers. Such substances which can be easily broken down by the action of bacteria are named as biodegradable substances. Other substances or material like plastics, metallic cans and pesticides which cannot be broken down easily by biological processes are named as non-biodegradable substances.

Technology has enhanced the quality of life and given birth to an innovative form of life. This has an erratic impact on the environment and other lives on the earth. For example, water bottles made of plastic, which is convenient to use and carry but its disposal is a test for nature.

There are tons of waste materials which are degradable and non-degradable. Therefore, classification and proper disposal of wastes are necessary. Waste materials can be categorized as biodegradable and non-biodegradable. Risk and threats associated with waste disposals can be easily evaded by the knowledge on forms of wastes.


What is the meaning of Biodegradable?


A biodegradable material or substance can be defined as a material which can be decomposed easily by bacteria or any other natural organisms and not being the part of pollution.

Biodegradable wastes are the waste materials which are and can be easily degraded by natural factors like microbes (e.g. bacteria, fungi and few other), abiotic components like temperature, UV, oxygen, etc. few examples of such wastes are kitchen wastes, food materials, and other natural wastes. Microorganisms and other abiotic elements worktogether break down complex substances into simple organic matters which finally suspend and disappear into the soil. The whole process is natural which can be fast or slow. So, the environmental issues and risks caused by biodegradable wastes are very low.

Examples of biodegradable.

But the giant dumping of waste can increase some threats to life sooner or later. To prevent this, some people practice known as composting. In composting, the biodegradable wastes are dumped into a big pit and covered for a time period. During this the action of microbes, they will decompose and will be used as compost for cultivation purpose. This will reduce the quantity of waste at landfills.

What is Biodegradable Waste?

Biodegradable waste is a form of waste, originating naturally from plant or animal sources, which may be degraded by other living organisms.

Biodegradable waste can be usually found in municipal solid waste such as green waste, food waste, paper waste, and biodegradable plastics. Some of the sources contain human waste, sewage, slaughterhouse waste etc.



Waste which cannot be decomposed or degrade by the biological process is known as “Non-biodegradable wastes”. Most of them include inorganic waste is non-biodegradable.

What does Non-biodegradable mean?

A Non-Biodegradable material can be defined as a type of material which cannot be broken down by natural organisms and serve as a source of pollution.

Unlike biodegradable wastes, non-biodegradable wastes cannot be easily taken care of. Non-biodegradable wastes are those which cannot be decomposed or degraded by natural agents. They remain on earth for thousands of years without any degradation or decomposition. Therefore, the threat caused by them is also more dangerous. An example is the plastic which is usually used in almost every area. To give these plastics a long-lasting outcome, better quality plastics are being used. This made them more temperature resilient and tougher even after the use. Other cases are cans, metals, and chemicals for agricultural and industrial uses. They are the chief causes of air, water and soil pollution and diseases like cancer.

Since non-biodegradable wastes are not at all Eco-friendly, they need to be replaced or substituted. As a part of the growth of alternatives, scientists have brought forward many innovative ideas like biodegradable plastics, etc. They combined some biodegradable materials with plastics and made them easily and speedily degradable. But this is quite a costly procedure. Non-biodegradable wastes which can be recycled and can be used again are known as “Recyclable waste” and those which cannot be used again are known as “Non-recyclable waste”

Effects of Waste Material on Environment

Waste quantities are commonly grown in all countries all around the world. Every year billions of tons of waste are produced. These wastes are the outcomes of activities in our homes, businesses and industries and disposal of these wastes in huge amounts is a vast environmental problem. Agriculture, Municipal & industrial solid waste and biomass deposits are a huge source of large scale pollution of both land and water. The production of waste causes damage to materials and energy and rise in environmental costs on society for its collection, treatment, and disposal. The impressions of landfill and incineration are significant because of their greenhouse gas emissions like (methane, carbon dioxide) and trans-boundary movement of organic micropollutants such as (dioxins and furans) and volatile heavy metals. Difficulties with waste are as old as humans.

Very soon humans realized that waste is a potential source of illness, diseases, and infections, so they dump their waste, which was totally in a biological manner, away from there. The first planned municipal dump is in 500 BC outside ancient Greece, where regulations mandatory waste to be dumped at least a mile from the city boundaries and covered with soil. Until industrialization of civilization waste was mostly organic, so they can decompose or degrade naturally. Later, mainly because of industrialization, urbanization, and due to the development of society, the amount of waste increase very quickly.


Whether it is biodegradable or non-biodegradable, they are harmful to human life and loss other organisms and their environment. Thus, the correct treatment of wastes must be done. This is not only the duty of Government, and each can contribute in helping to reduce waste. The three “Rs”- Recycle, Reuse, and Reduce are simple steps which can take by each person. This can save a lot of energy and other resources as well. Another step is to separate biodegradable from non-biodegradable waste at home and dispose them individually.

Difference between Biodegradable and non-biodegradable
1Degradation process in Biodegradable waste is fastDegradation process in Non-Biodegradable waste is slower than biodegradable
2Biodegradable waste is decomposed and degraded by microbes or microorganismNon-Biodegradable waste cannot be decomposed by microbes or naturally
3Biodegradable waste is not collected but are used up in short timeNon-Biodegradable waste often collected
4Biodegradable waste has become part of biogeochemical cycles and give back quick turnoverMost of Non-Biodegradable waste can never enter biogeochemical cycles, very slow and more harmful for earth
5Biodegradable waste can be used to generate energy as compost and biogasNon-Biodegradable waste can be separated and recycled but the process is very costly

Key Differences between Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable Substances

  • 1. Biodegradable is a term referred to all those things that can be decomposed by natural agents. Natural agents contain water, oxygen, acid rains, ultraviolet rays of the sun, microorganisms, etc. On the other hand, non-biodegradable substances are never be broken down or decomposed by environmental aspects.

  • 2. Biodegradable material contains food waste like vegetable and fruit peels, dead plants and animals, egg shells, chicken, garden waste paper materials, etc. Non-biodegradable things include of plastics, polystyrene, plastic, metals, and aluminum cans, toxic chemicals, paints, tyres, etc.

  • 3. Biodegradable materials on decomposing are transformed into simple organic matter and are thus adapted in the soil and thus become a part of the carbon cycle of the atmosphere. On the hand, non-biodegradable materials are resilient to the environmental factors and can never decompose and in its place contribute to most of the solid waste.

  • Harmful effects of biodegradable wastes:

    Biodegradable wastes DAMAGE the environment only when they are in a surplus amount in the environment. They can disturb the environment in the following ways:

    1. They produce a huge amount of microbial flora around the wastes. These microbes can cause numerous communicable diseases in humans, plants, and animals.
    2. These wastes generate foul smell. On burning it release of certain gases which contributes to greenhouse gas.
    3. Tons of such wastes are the breeding grounds for transporters and vectors like mosquitoes and rats which spread numerous communicable diseases.

    Harmful effects of non-biodegradable wastes

    1. Extreme use of non-biodegradable wastes, for example, chemical pesticides (D.D.T) and fertilizers make the soil more acidic or alkaline thus affecting the fertility of the soil.
    2. These materials can also be washed away from the fields into the closed water bodies thereby disturbing aquatic life and endorsing algal blooms. This occurrence is termed as eutrophication.
    3. Toxic substances like D.D.T when come into any food chain, being non-biodegradable, they keep on collecting progressively at each trophic level. Since humans occupy the highest trophic level in any food chain, the maximum concentration of these chemicals can be found in human bodies. This occurrence is termed as biological magnification.