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What Does Compostable Mean?

What Does Compostable Mean?

An item that is “compostable” is one that is made entirely from carbon-based biomaterials like leaves, wood, plant fibers, and so on. Compostable items must be able to be broken down completely by microorganisms within a limited amount of time, and should not leave behind any toxic residue or chemicals. Basically, something that is compostable is an item that will completely decompose if left for a few months in a composting environment.

Non-compostable materials, like plastics, glass, and metals cannot be broken down naturally and must either be destroyed, reused, or thrown into landfills where they will sit for thousands of years before beginning to break down, all the while potentially damaging the surrounding environment. Those non-compostable items that don’t make it to landfills are often littered and left to pollute natural ecosystems and waterways. Plastic and other consumer waste pollution have begun to overrun the planet, a problem which has inspired many environmentalists and motivated humans to take action. 


A Compostable Mission


At Pela, we’ve been working for over a decade to reduce plastic pollution, one phone case at a time. Petroleum-based plastics are present in shocking numbers in our oceans, lakes, and rivers, and continue to pile up in landfills around the world. Though talking about plastic pollution and the state of the planet may make some people feel hopeless or overwhelmed, we’re here to tell you that there is plenty you can do to make a difference! 

Compostable plastic is our answer to the problem of plastic pollution, an alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics that won’t harm the environment or take thousands of years to decompose. While millions of plastic phone cases are being thrown away every year, more and more compostable Pela Cases are being purchased by people on an environmental mission. Our mission: make plastic compostable. 


Compostable vs. Biodegradable


Although Pela has the one and only 100% compostable plastic phone case, many other companies have attempted to greenwash their products in order to profit off of an environmental image. While some of these companies may be including some biomaterials in their phone cases (a small step is still a good step!), none have gone so far as to create a phone case that is completely compostable. Despite claiming compostability, all other compostable phone cases on the market are not truly compostable, but instead biodegradable.

Isn’t being compostable and being biodegradable the same thing? Doesn’t composting require materials to biodegrade?

Unsurprisingly, this is one of the most common questions we come across. Thanks to companies like those mentioned above using the terms “compostable” and “biodegradable” interchangeably, many people have begun to believe that they are indeed the same. In fact, compostable and biodegradable materials do have some similarities, but their differences are the more important thing to mention. 

Biodegradable materials will eventually completely degrade, but the time it takes for these materials to disappear entirely is undetermined. This means that these items could exist for decades or even centuries before degrading while still qualifying as biodegradable. Biodegradable items will rarely break down efficiently in a composting environment and instead are better suited for landfills where they receive chemical assistance in order to break down. 

Compostable materials will completely degrade within a defined period of time, usually within a few months of disposal. Compostable items are not suited for disposal in landfills, and instead should be added to commercial or home compost heaps. Compostable materials can break down quickly and efficiently with the assistance of microorganisms inhabiting the compost pile and will leave no trace once fully decomposed. 

Compostable Plastic


So, if compostable items are made from natural materials, what in the world is compostable plastic? Plastic, as most people know it, is petroleum/oil-based, and not biodegradable or compostable. Plastic has quickly become one of the world’s most harmful pollutants and is now present in natural ecosystems around the world including oceans, lakes, and rivers. As plastic breaks down, it can leach harmful chemicals into surrounding soil or water, potentially poisoning crops, native critters, drinking water, soil, and so on. Plastic also never truly disappears, instead breaking down into microplastics which infest nearly every inch of our oceans and are sprinkled through the soil. 

Compostable plastic, on the other hand, is made entirely from natural, plant-based materials, and is capable of degrading in just a few short months. Our compostable plastic, or Flaxstic, is made from plant-based materials and is a combination of flax shive and starch-based elastomer. This proprietary blend easily decomposes in a home or commercial compost environment and is safe to add to compost you intend to use in your own home garden. Rather than throwing away a traditional plastic phone case, and knowing it will spend hundreds of years polluting the planet, feel excited to give your old phone case back to the earth.

When compared with other “eco-friendly” phone cases, the Pela Case has proven itself time and time again. We’ve run rigorous testing to ensure our phone cases will completely compost in under 6 months, and won’t leave behind any harmful residue. By switching to our eco-friendly phone case alternative, our customers have already helped to prevent more than 313,528 pounds of plastic from ever being created, and have kept thousands of plastic phone cases from spending centuries in landfills. 


Stuff You Should Be Composting 


For the purposes of this list, we’ve broken compostable materials up by where you’ll find them at home, but it’s important to know that compostable materials are most often defined as either “brown materials” or “green materials”. Brown materials (i.e. fallen leaves, cardboard, and hair) are carbon-rich, while green materials (i.e. grass clippings, pasta, and eggshells) are nitrogen-rich, and both play an important role in balancing the health and composition of your compost.


If you are a seasoned composter, you probably already have a bunch of items you regularly add to your pile. If you are new to composting, you are probably wondering what things you should be composting, but aren’t. No matter whether you are an old pro or a total newb, we’ve got the skinny on some items that you should be composting every time:


Yard Waste

  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Bush trimmings
  • Weeds
  • Pine needles
  • Pinecones
  • Wood chips
  • Dead plants (undiseased)
  • Sod


Kitchen Waste

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Peels, pits, and cobs
  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Coffee grounds
  • Coffee filters
  • Tea leaves
  • Teabags (remove staples)
  • Expired herbs and spices
  • Nutshells (no walnuts)
  • Cooked rice
  • Cooked pasta
  • Eggshells
  • Used napkins
  • Spoiled non-dairy milk


General Home Waste

  • Dry cat food
  • Dry dog food
  • Dust
  • Dryer lint
  • Hair
  • Shredded paper (non-glossy; newspaper)
  • Egg cartons
  • Toilet paper and paper towel rolls
  • Sawdust
  • Toothpicks
  • Torn up corrugated cardboard
  • Wine corks
  • Small pet bedding and small pet droppings (i.e. hamsters, guinea pigs, etc.)
  • Shredded brown paper shopping bags


Items You Should NOT Compost


Though there are a shocking number of home items you can easily compost, there are some that should be avoided if you want your compost pile to stay happy and healthy: 

  • Dog or cat droppings
  • Meat and fish scraps (these should be brought to your local commercial composting facility)
  • Glossy or waxed paper
  • Coal fire ash
  • Treated wood
  • Synthetic fertilizers
  • Cooking oil
  • Milk or dairy products
  • Raw rice
  • Walnuts


How to Compost No Matter Where You Live


Many people believe that composting simply isn’t accessible to them because they don’t live in a rural area, and are limited by their urban surroundings. While it is true that having your own compost pile in your third floor Chicago walkup apartment might not be the way to go, there are still plenty of resources for city dwellers to compost their scraps and reduce their landfill contributions. 

No matter where you live if you have a yard or small outside area you can dedicate to a compost pile, you can compost! Composting is as easy as designating a space, choosing a container, then regularly adding to and turning your compost pile. Requiring minimal attention and relatively minimal space, a home compost pile is a great way to easily dispose of home scraps while also creating free nutrient-rich compost for your garden. 

If you live in an apartment, condo, urban setting, or somewhere without a yard or any spare outdoor space, you can always investigate your local composting facilities. If you do not have a nearby composting facility, you may be able to find a company that does routine compost pickup, so you can create a small composting container in your home that will be emptied every week to prevent foul odors. 

If compost excites you the way it excites us, you’re going to love our line of eco-friendly phone cases! Visit Pela today to learn more about plastic and the environment, and to take advantage of our current Buy One Get One Free promotion to help people eliminate germs and keep their phones clean.