Industrial Vs Home Compostable: What’s The Difference?

Industrial composting VS home compostable packaging – what is the difference? What are the benefits? Here’s everything you need to know to help your customers manage waste efficiently.
November 8, 2022
4 minutes

In 2022, nearly 51% of compostable materials make up more than half of the trash going to landfills. Perfectly biodegradable waste is currently pilling up in landfills, releasing huge amounts of methane emissions which contribute greatly to the process of global warming. And while only 27 percent of people and businesses are actively using some form of composting in the United States, we still have a long way ahead of us. It goes without saying that, for sustainably-minded businesses, choosing the right compostable packaging is crucial!

Whether you are a small bakery that offers take-out containers, a fashion label that wants to sustainably package its pieces, or a brand ready to tackle excessive waste once and for all, biodegradable packaging should be on your SDGs. 

Let’s break down the difference between home compostable and industrial compostable packaging.


What is compostable?

Composting is a means of recovery of organic matter into compost, which can be used for soil improvement or as a fertilizer. Kitchen and garden waste, packaging, etc. can easily be turned into a nutrient-rich fertilizer. Fungi, bacteria, insects, worms and other organisms help boost the natural process of recycling organic matter to create a nutrient-dense ‘compost’. This dirt can then be used as a powerful fertilizer and soil conditioner.


Industrial composting vs home compostable

At-home composting:

At-home composting usually requires a container in which you can store waste bit by bit. During at-home composting, organic waste undergoes a deliberate layering process to speed up decomposition. This usually requires eco-conscious consumers to find a dry, shady spot near a water source for the compost pile or bin. The entire process can last from two months to two years depending on the type of waste and conditions.


At-home composting can also be achieved with the help of countertop-friendly, electric home composters, and indoor compost bin alternative which uses aeration, heat, and pulverization to reduce food waste volume, emissions, and odor, which can significantly speed up the process.

However, sadly, there are some limitations. PLA bioplastic, for example, cannot be broken down naturally at home. Also, other common types of waste like meat, fish, or dairy products increase the risk of attracting vermin.


Industrial composting:

Much like home composting, industrial composting turns waste into either dirt which is then used as a fertilizer, or, on some occasions, ground cover. Just like in landfills, industrial composters are paid for by anyone who disposes of waste based on the load’s weight. As soon as the waste enters the site, it is strategically dumped into piles and layered with bulking agents such as woodchips, branches, shredded newspaper, etc for better air circulation. This method speeds up the process by a lot – Aerated static pile composting takes between three to six months.

Then, we also have In-vessel composting. This method requires metal or plastic tanks in which air flow and temperature can be controlled, using the principles of a "bioreactor." In-vessel composting is the quickest method as it only takes a few more weeks and can process large amounts of waste without taking up as much space.


Compostable packaging solutions

Most types of plant-based packaging materials like mushrooms and rice husk are also perfectly compostable. Other sustainable options like bamboo, sugarcane, Birchwood, paper, and PLA-Bioplastic packaging can easily be composted as well.

But, just slapping the word “compostable” on your packaging simply isn’t enough. Customers should be absolutely certain of how a product can be composted. That’s why having certifications to ensure that it is actually compostable is so important. Maybe your specific material has inks and glue that negatively impact the compost quality, or you’ve managed to opt for 100% at-home compostable packaging. No matter what the case may be, if you truly want to meet your corporate responsibility and environmental goals in 2023, transparency is the key! 


Conclusion: Industrial Vs Home Compostable packaging

It’s no secret that converting waste into compost effectively eliminates pollution of the air, water, and soil. This nutrient-rich dirt has helped thousands of hobby gardeners and farmers stay away from highly-polluting fertilizers all while preserving natural resources and saving water. Both methods are equally beneficial but they do have some key differences. 

At-home composting cannot process as many types of organic matter as commercial composting can. Compostable plastics and other dense materials, for example, can only be composted industrially. Plant-based packaging and food scraps can be efficiently treated at home, but in most cases, commercial composting is required.

At the end of the day, composting is a stellar way to help battle the ever-growing issue of waste and help the planet during this era of eco-awakening.