contact us

What’s happening in packaging

Recyclable vs Biodegradable Packaging…Which is Better?

recyclable vs biodegradable

Trying to decide on an eco-friendly packaging approach? There are many ways to contribute to sustainability goals, but at some point you’ll have to compare recyclable vs biodegradable solutions and pick a path. Which is better?

The short answer is that neither option is superior to the other — both have pros and cons, which must be carefully weighed before you make a decision.

Recyclable vs Biodegradable Packaging:




Recyclable Packaging

  • Can be partially or completely made from recycled materials
  • Completely eliminates waste when processed properly
  • Wide variety of available materials (plastic, metal, glass, cardboard)
  • Tends to be stronger than biodegradables 
  • Generally better options for liquids
  • Cheaper to make
  • Numerous suppliers
  • Many recyclables end up in landfills
  • Material probably won’t/can’t be recycled infinitely
  • Requires extra effort by consumer or waste management system
  • Plastics are having a reputation crisis with consumers
  • Might not be made with sustainable resources (plastics come from fossil fuels)
  • Mixed-material packaging makes recycling difficult

Biodegradable Packaging

  • Made with a sustainable resource
  • Zero harm to the environment once fully biodegraded
  • Paper, cardboard are also recyclable
  • Trending in the market
  • Very positive reputation with consumers
  • Lots of research here…improving every year
  • Reduces global reliance on traditional plastics
  • Unique, stands out on the shelf
  • Biodegradable plastics are not recyclable
  • Best for products with short shelf lives (less than 12 months)
  • More expensive
  • Doesn’t perform well with liquids (or requires non-biodegradable liner)
  • May not biodegrade well in landfill conditions…always ask
  • Compostables could require industrial composting (check!)
  • Less strength and weaker seal than many recyclables
  • Vulnerable to moisture


Why Go With Biodegradable Packaging Materials?

Exciting new options like the biodegradable stand up pouch have got retailers and consumers feeling enthusiastic about sustainability goals. If you’re packaging dry products that are expected to last on a consumer’s shelf at home for a year or less, biodegradable packaging may be a fantastic option. Cardboard tends to outlast newer options like compostable bioplastics, although the plastics will give a better seal for freshness and protection from contaminants. 

Go with biodegradable packaging materials for the biggest splash in today’s green-minded market — they’re highly marketable. At the same time, you can rest assured that they’ll eventually return to mother earth, unlike some recyclables that leave man-made materials in landfills for centuries.

Why Go With Recyclable / Recycled Packaging Materials?

A recyclable approach can be better if you’re concerned about cost, since innovative new biodegradable or compostable materials can come in at a somewhat higher price point. You’ll also have stronger options that are impervious to moisture and more resistant to impacts, sharp objects, or the heft of heavier products and larger quantities.

Go with recyclable or recycled packaging materials if you’re working with beverages or liquids, large packages, a dense/heavy product, or need a package that will last potentially for years in the consumer’s possession. 

Talk to an Expert

Our experienced team of supply chain specialists at ABC Packaging Direct — The Oversea Network would love to hear about your next project and answer all of your questions. We’re happy to chat you through all of the recyclable vs biodegradable packaging options to help you make a final decision for your product’s packaging. Contact us today to chat or get a quote!

Domestic Suppliers Are Sunk


Fill out the form below, and one of our team members will contact you. We take pride in getting you answers and solutions in the least amount of time possible.

Questions about our packaging and supply chain solutions?