The new regulations associated with the packaging sector have a very clear challenge: to lead us towards the development of a circular economy and, indeed, to curb climate change.

In 2025, at least 65% of all packaging must be recyclable, as indicated in the New Royal Decree Project on Packaging and Waste. And in 2030, these requirements are expected to be further tightened.

Faced with this paradigm shift, many companies are wondering what technical characteristics their product packaging must meet. Does it have to be recyclable, biodegradable or compostable?

In this article we aim to answer all your questions!

What is the difference between recyclable, biodegradable and compostable?

We will begin by clarifying what we understand by recyclable, biodegradable and compostable packaging, in order to discover their main differences.

Recyclable packaging:

A recyclable packaging is one that has the capacity to be reused through a transformation process. Thanks to this, the circularity of materials and sustainable development are promoted.

In this sense, cardboard is considered one of the materials with the highest percentage of recyclability. Its current recycling rate in Europe stands at 84.5%, with a target of 90% by 2030.

In addition, it is a material with a long recyclability cycle, being able to recycle up to 25 times without losing its integrity, as confirmed by a recent study published by Pro Carton.

It should be highlighted that to demonstrate the recyclability of your packaging, you must certify it through an accredited company, as established by the UNE-EN 13430 standard.

Biodegradable packaging:

We understand biodegradable packaging when it has been produced with materials suitable for decomposing naturally, that is, by organic decomposition in the environment.

Cardboard, being basically a cellulose material, has the ability to decompose in 1 year. This places it ahead of other materials such as plastic, with a decomposition time of up to 1,000 years, or glass, 4,000 years.

In order for a product to be considered biodegradable, it must also meet the requirements established in the reference standards (UNE-EN 13432). Mainly, 90% of its material must be biodegradable.

Compostable packaging:

A packaging is considered compostable when it has the ability to be composted through a controlled process.

Unlike the recyclable packaging, which is renewed for a new use, the compostable can be used as a natural fertilizer.

In this case, to obtain the compostable packaging certification, an evaluation by an accredited laboratory is necessary.

infography about recyclable biodegradable and compostable packaging

The importance of the “concept phase”

Understanding the meaning of each of these definitions is vital to achieving the environmental impact you want to accomplish with your packaging. An objective that we will define from the creation of the packaging, also known as the “concept phase”.

For this, it is important to study and analyze the entire life cycle of the packaging, from the origin of its material to its subsequent recovery.

At Alzamora Groupwe have been committed to ecodesign for years, a technique that allows us to meet the environmental challenges of today’s industry. Mainly, it focuses on analyzing the materials used in packaging, volume reduction and their subsequent recyclability, biodegradability or compostability.

If you want to discover more about ecodesign and which option is best for your packaging, get in touch with our technical team and let’s start working together!