Biodegradable packaging is packaging that will degrade biologically using microbial action in the earth's biological system. There are different types and levels of biodegradable packaging and understanding each type will help you make an informed decision about which is the best option for you.
Paper and cardboard is a naturally biodegradable product and will naturally degrade back into the ecosystem in a short space of time and in almost any environment. Products manufactured with paper fibres and pulp win hands down in the biodegrading race so if you can use a paper alternative then this will almost always be the best biodegradable option.
Biodegradable Plastic Packaging
Biodegradable plastic packaging has a special additive mixed in to it during the manufacturing stage to help the break down the plastic faster so it doesn't stay around for hundreds of years as waste. There are several different types of biodegradable plastic, here's a quick overview of the most common types.
Oxo-degradable additives: This is an additive which is added to plastics to help them degrade using heat, light, and air. It works by breaking down the plastic into diols (very small pieces) which is then dissolved by bacteria and fungus. Oxo-degrading plastics are useful for littering issues as the plastic breaks down into small pieces quickly, however they don't biodegrade in landfill or composting facilities because of the lack of air and light.
Corn Based Plastics and BioResins: These plastics are manufactured from renewable sources like plant based starch and will biodegrade and compost in industrial composting plants. They do however need high temperatures to biodegrade which are a lot warmer than most normal composting facilities and home composting, they need industrial composting facilities.
Biodegradable Plastic Additives: These are additives similar to oxo-degrading additives but they use a biological method to break down the plastics rather than using heat, light, and air. There are many different types of biodegradable additives, more and more companies are introducing more effective and faster biodegrading additives and some now combine the advantages of both oxo and bio degrading methods.