Biodegradable vs Non-Biodegradable Substances with Examples

    We generate a ton of trash on a day-to-day routine and fling them away or discard them. These materials contain kitchen scraps like vegetables and fruit peels, empty containers, used tea leaves, and many expendable articles like liquids, plastic packs, paper, old clothing, old footwear etc. 

    Many of these substances like paper, vegetable and fruit peels can be effortlessly decomposed by the effort of bacteria or different decomposers, and many cannot. 

    There are numerous varieties of waste that we create on an annual basis. It appears in multiple shapes; regardless, we can primarily distribute them into two groups. One is biodegradable waste, and the other is non-biodegradable waste.

    These two wastes are very different from each other. We must remember that everything we use in our regular life is either biodegradable or non-biodegradable. One is favourable to the environment while the second is not.

    By taking a glance at the description of both these wastes, one can quickly realise Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable differences.


    What is Biodegradable Waste?

    Biodegradable substances can be described as material that can be decomposed through bacteria or different natural organisms and not be put into pollution.

    Biodegradable wastes are waste materials that can be tarnished by natural elements like microorganisms (e.g. bacteria, fungi and a few more), abiotic factors like temperature, UV, oxygen, etc. Several instances of such wastes are food materials, kitchen scraps, and other natural garbage. Microbes and other abiotic factors decompose tricky materials into simpler organic substances that finally suspend and vanish into the ground. 

    But at the same time, biodegradable plastic helps reduce CO2 emissions and also utilises less energy. Non-biodegradable plastic is bought on land for disposal as less field space is required for this process. It can be easily recycled. Biodegradable plastic is non-toxic because it does not contain any chemicals.

    It commonly emerges from plant or animal origins, which other living organisms may pollute. Biodegradable waste can be generally found in substantial municipal trash such as green waste, food trash, paper waste and biodegradable plastics. 

    The entire procedure is natural, which can be quick or slow. Thus, the environmental problems and hazards inflicted by biodegradable wastes are low.


    Harmful Effects of Biodegradable Waste

    Biodegradable wastes contaminate the atmosphere purely when they are more than widespread in the setting. They can influence the environment in the following ways:

    • They produce an enormous quantity of microbial flora around the wastes. These microorganisms can result in various communicable illnesses in humans, plants and animals.
    • These wastes produce a terrible odour on burning due to the discharge of specific fumes.
    • Piles of such wastes are the breeding surfaces for couriers and vectors like mosquitoes and rats, which spread various communicable illnesses.

    Examples of Biodegradable Waste

    • Food trash
    • Human trash
    • Paper trash
    • Slaughterhouse trash
    • Sewage
    • Infirmary trash
    • Sewage goo
    • Manure


    What is Non-Biodegradable Waste?

    Contrary to biodegradable wastes, non-biodegradable waste can’t be handily dealt with. Non-biodegradable wastes are those that cannot be decomposed or eliminated by natural methods. They persist on earth for thousands of years without any degradation. Thus, the peril inflicted by them is moreover extra crucial. 

    Waste that natural techniques can’t decay is recognised as “Non-biodegradable wastes”. The maximum of the inorganic trash is non-biodegradable. Non-biodegradable wastes that can be recycled are called “Recyclable waste”, and those which can’t be recycled are known as “Non-recyclable waste”.

    Since non-biodegradable wastes aren’t eco-friendly, they require to be reinstated. As part of the advancement of substitutes, scientists have brought forward multiple ideas like biodegradable plastics. They integrated some biodegradable substances with plastics and made them effortlessly and promptly degradable. But this is quite a costly technique.

    Harmful Effects of Non-Biodegradable Waste

    The prevalent practice of non-biodegradable products such as chemical pesticides (D.D.T) and fertilisers renders the soil acidic or alkaline, impacting soil fertility.

    These elements can also be rinsed out from the fields into the close water bodies, thereby influencing marine existence and encouraging algal blooms. This phenomenon is named eutrophication.

    When infiltrating any food cycle, poisonous materials like D.D.T continue expanding progressively at each trophic grade due to being non-biodegradable. Since humans inhabit the topmost trophic level in any food cycle, the primary concentration of these chemicals can be tracked in human physiques. This phenomenon is named biological magnification.

    Examples of Non-Biodegradable Waste

    • Glass
    • Metal
    • Batteries
    • Plastic containers
    • Tetra packages
    • Medicinal debris
    • Carbon paper

    Differences between Biodegradable and Non-Biodegradable Waste

    The descriptions make it very evident that there are large differences between biodegradable waste and non-biodegradable waste. Firstly, biodegradable materials are considered to be very advantageous as they decompose effortlessly.

    The action of air, sunlight, water, soil, and microbes helps in decaying the matter. The pace at which these biodegradable elements decompose depends on the constituents and can take up to a few days and occasionally even weeks. On the other hand, non-biodegradable substances do not naturally deteriorate in the ecosystem and are rather dangerous. 

    In contrast, the non-biodegradable material either does not decompose or does so very slowly, taking up to hundreds and thousands of years. Most of them do maintain their original form and can be found as it is even after many years.

    Moreover, we can use biodegradable materials after degrading for producing fertilisers, biogas, compost, manure and more. This is very profitable for the environment. However, the degradation rate is slow, so it does not do any good. Plus, even if we recycle it, it is quite expensive and does not benefit the environment.


    In conclusion, a lot of measures are being taken up to encourage the use of biodegradable substances and avoid non-biodegradable materials. The best way to save the environment from getting more damaged is to follow the three R’s- Recycle, Reuse, and Reduce non-biodegradable substances, which can conserve energy and other resources as well.

    And considering that they do not decompose or dissolve, it is better to recycle them to reduce this kind of waste. Other than that, try to go environment-friendly by only using biodegradable materials. Make sure to revise this article to solidify your understanding of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste.