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Biodegradable and Non Biodegradable

Last updated date: 29th May 2024
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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 biodegradable substances. Other substances or materials like plastics, metallic cans and pesticides which cannot be broken down easily by biological processes are named non-biodegradable substances.


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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 are made of plastic, which is convenient to use and carry but their disposal is a test for nature.

There are tons of waste materials that are degradable and non-degradable. Therefore, classification and proper disposal of wastes are necessary. Waste materials are therefore categorized as biodegradable and non-biodegradable. 

What is the Meaning of Biodegradable?


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


Biodegradable wastes are the waste materials that are and can be easily degraded by natural factors like microbes (e.g. bacteria, fungi and a few others), 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 work together to 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 composting. In composting, the biodegradable wastes are dumped into a big pit and covered for a time period. During this action of microbes, they will decompose and will be used as compost for cultivation purposes. 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.

What is the meaning of non-biodegradable? 


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


What Does Non-biodegradable Mean?

A Non-Biodegradable material can be defined as a type of material that 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 a 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 huge sources of large scale pollution of both land and water. The production of waste causes damage to materials and energy and a rise in environmental costs for the 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 transboundary 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 mandate waste to be dumped at least a mile from the city boundaries and covered with soil. Until the industrialization of civilization waste was mostly organic, so it can decompose or degrade naturally. Later, mainly because of industrialization, urbanization, and the development of society, the amount of waste increased 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 the Government, and each can contribute in helping to reduce waste. The three “Rs”- Recycle, Reuse, and Reduce are simple steps that 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 of them individually.

Difference Between Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable





The degradation process in Biodegradable waste is fast

The degradation process in Non-Biodegradable waste is slower than in biodegradable


Biodegradable waste is decomposed and degraded by microbes or microorganism

Non-Biodegradable waste cannot be decomposed by microbes or naturally


Biodegradable waste is not collected but is used up in a short time

Non-Biodegradable waste is often collected


Biodegradable waste has become part of biogeochemical cycles and give back quick turnover

Most of the Non-Biodegradable waste can never enter biogeochemical cycles, very slow and more harmful for the earth


Biodegradable waste can be used to generate energy as compost and biogas

Non-Biodegradable waste can be separated and recycled but the process is very costly

FAQs on Biodegradable and Non Biodegradable

1. What do you mean by biodegradable? What does biodegradable waste mean?

Biodegradable - Refers to the materials or objects which can get easily decomposed in nature by organisms like bacteria. They do not contaminate the natural environment by their presence. Biodegradable wastes are those waste materials that can be degraded by natural factors like microbes (e.g. bacteria, fungi and a few more), abiotic elements like temperature, UV, oxygen, etc. Microorganisms and other abiotic factors together contribute towards breaking down complex substances into simpler organic matters. These substances eventually suspend and fade into the soil. The whole process is natural which is sometimes slow and sometimes rapid.

Biodegradable Waste - Biodegradable waste is the type of waste that is typically originating from plant or animal sources, which can be degraded by other living organisms.

2. What do you mean by Non - Biodegradable?

Non - Biodegradable objects or materials are those which do not easily decompose by natural factors. Non - Biodegradable Waste is the kind of waste that cannot be decomposed by biological processes. Most of the inorganic, plastic and artificial waste are non-biodegradable. Non-biodegradable wastes are of two types. The kind of non-biodegradable that can be recycled are known as “Recyclable waste” and those which cannot be recycled are known as “Non-recyclable waste”. Most of the non-biodegradable waste is non-recyclable waste making them extremely harmful and dangerous for the environment as well as human health.

3. What are the adverse effects of non-biodegradable waste?

Non-biodegradable waste is very harmful to the environment as it accumulates. Some of the adverse effects of non-biodegradable waste include - Clogging of drains, Destruction and contamination of water bodies, Soil destruction, Global warming, Death of cattle, due to ingestion of plastics, Nutrition deficient crops, Ecological imbalance, Air pollution, Water pollution, Land pollution, Biological magnification of hazardous substances, Affects the soil fertility, Reduces crop yield, causing health problems, spreading communicable diseases.

4. How to reduce waste generation?

The most effective manner to manage waste is - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Reduce - Try to decrease the amount of waste being generated on a daily basis. We tend to have more things than necessary which results in the accumulation of unwanted things. For instance:

  • Use papers for packing.

  • Utilize paper napkins instead of disposable ones.

  • But things only when necessary.

Reuse - Most of the everyday items can be reused. Utilizing them in a different manner will help in saving money and reducing waste:

  • Old clothes can become cushion covers or cloth bags.

  • Old toothbrushes can become cleaning aids.

  • Juice bottles can become water bottles.

  • Cardboard boxes can become shoe racks or another storage area.

  • Glass jars and bottles can become kitchen storage material.

Recycle - This is the best way of saving waste and the environment together. Recycling is the best way to deal with major problematic waste like plastic which does not easily decompose. The only way to make them less harmful is to reuse them by recycling them as much as possible.

  • Plastic bags must be replaced by cloth and jute bags.

  • Disposable plastic and bottles must be used to grow plants.

  • Buy only recyclable plastic.

  • Ziploc covers and other plastic covers must be reused once completed.

  • Avoid buying water bottles outside, instead carry your own bottles.