Difference Between Biodegradable and Non Biodegradable

Main Difference – Biodegradable vs Non Biodegradable

Biodegradation is the degradation of materials via biological means. It can be via microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, etc. This biodegradation can be either aerobic or anaerobic, depending on the amount of oxygen present in the surrounding. The term biodegradable is used to name any material that can undergo biodegradation and the term non-biodegradable refers to the opposite of it. Non-biodegradable materials do not undergo biodegradation. The main difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials is that biodegradable materials are easily decomposed or dissolved by biological means whereas non biodegradable materials cannot be decomposed or dissolved by biological means.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Biodegradable
      – Definition, Factors Affecting Biodegradation, Measurement
2. What is Non Biodegradable
     – Definition, Examples
3. What is the Difference Between Biodegradable and Non Biodegradable
      – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Aerobic, Anaerobic, Biodegradable, Biodegradation, Non-Biodegradable

Difference Between Biodegradable and Non Biodegradable - Comparison Summary

What is Biodegradable

The term biodegradable is used to name any material that is capable of undergoing biodegradation. This means, these materials can be degraded by biological means; by bacteria, fungi, etc. The breakdown of these materials should be safe and quick, and the final product should be a raw material that can be released into the environment without any harm to the environment. Biodegradable materials can be either solids or liquids. When solid materials are biodegraded, and the final product is released to the soil; when liquid materials are biodegraded, final products are released to water.

Figure 1: Biodegradable Organic Matter

Figure 1: Biodegradable Organic Matter

There are several factors that affect the rate of biodegradation of a biodegradable material. A highly biodegradable material will have a higher rate of biodegradation; thus, it will be converted to raw materials in a very short time period. Some of the factors are listed below.

  • Light
  • Water
  • Oxygen
  • Temperature
  • Bioavailability

Biodegradation can be measured using a respirometry test, which is suitable for the measurement of aerobic biodegradation. This method includes placing a sample of material (along with microorganisms) in a container followed by proper aeration. Then the amount of carbon dioxide produced is measured over the time period of biodegradation (microorganisms form CO2 gas as a byproduct of biodegradation).

What is Non Biodegradable

The term non-biodegradable refers to materials that cannot be degraded by biological means. These materials are not broken down naturally. Therefore, these non-biodegradable materials are harmful when they are released to the environment.

Main Difference - Biodegradable vs Non Biodegradable

Figure 2: Plastics are Non-Biodegraded

Most common examples for non-biodegradable materials include plastics, polyethylene, and many other synthetic polymer materials. But there are some synthetic polymers which undergo biodegradation quickly: polycaprolactone, polyesters, aromatic esters, etc.

Difference Between Biodegradable and Non Biodegradable

Definition

Biodegradable: The term biodegradable is used to name any material that is capable of undergoing biodegradation.

Non Biodegradable: The term non biodegradable is used to name any material that cannot be degraded by biological means.

Biodegradation

Biodegradable: Biodegradable materials easily and quickly undergo biodegradation.

Non Biodegradable: Non biodegradable materials do not undergo biodegradation or will take a very long time for the biodegradation.

Rate of Biodegradation

Biodegradable: The rate of biodegradation of biodegradable materials is very high.

Non Biodegradable: The rate of biodegradation of non-biodegradable materials is very low.

Examples

Biodegradable: Examples of biodegradable materials include paper, clothes, fruit, etc.

Non Biodegradable: Examples of non-biodegradable materials include plastics, polyethylene, and many other synthetic polymer materials.

Conclusion

Biodegradation is the process of degradation of substances by biological means. The main difference between biodegradable and non biodegradable materials is that biodegradable materials are easily decomposed or dissolved by biological means whereas non biodegradable materials are those who cannot be decomposed or dissolved by biological means.

Image Courtesy:

1. “2006_04_10″ by Taz (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
2. “Plastic Water Bottles Mountain Ice Hunger Takes Flight KFB May 20, 20107″ by Steven Depolo (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Reference:

1. “Biodegradation.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Feb. 2018, Available here.
2. “Biodegradable and Non-Biodegradable materials.” WWF, Available here.
3. Biodegradable. Greengoods, Available here.

About the Author: Madhusha

Madhusha is a BSc (Hons) graduate in the field of Biological Sciences and is currently pursuing for her Masters in Industrial and Environmental Chemistry. Her interest areas for writing and research include Biochemistry and Environmental Chemistry.

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