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Biodegradable and Non-Biodegradable Materials

Biodegradable and Non-Biodegradable Material- Definition of Biodegradable and Nonbiodegradable Materials, Examples, Differences, Practice Problems, FAQs

All natural products are self-sustaining and functions as a part of a vicious creation cum destruction by predators cycle. So the growth and decay both take place naturally without disturbing the balance of the environment.

Nomadic humans were also living with naturally growing things and did not cause any environmental damage. Since the invention of fire, technology has improved the quality and an easy way of life with different types of materials. On a daily basis, we generate a large number of substances that are non-useful called waste and discard them. These substances can be kitchen waste such as vegetable and fruit peels, empty cartons, used tea leaves, and a variety of consumable items such as juices, plastic bags, paper, old clothes, and metals. Plastics, e-waste etc. These discarded waste materials cause an unpredictable impact on the environment and threaten the very existence of the biotic species on this planet earth.

Of them, some, such as paper, vegetable and fruit peels, can be easily decomposed by natural atmospheric conditions and or with microorganisms like bacteria and other decomposers. They are known as biodegradable materials. But there is a much larger variety of substances or materials that cannot be easily broken down by either nature or by biological processes. They may come from home, industries, hospitals etc. These are referred to as non-biodegradable. As a result, waste classification and disposal are required. Waste materials are thus classified as biodegradable or non-biodegradable.

Table of content

  • Definition of Biodegradable Material and Biodegradable Waste
  • Definition of Non-biodegradable Material and Non-biodegradable Waste
  • Examples of Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable Material
  • Difference between Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable Materials
  • Effect of Waste on the Environment
  • Practice Problems
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Definition of Biodegradable Material and Biodegradable Waste

Biodegradable substances are commonly found in everyday life, such as food waste, tree leaves, and grass clippings. Plant materials are typically biodegradable.

Biodegradable wastes are waste materials that decompose and degrade by either or both abiotic factors like air, water sunlight, temperature, UV radiation, and biotic species like animals and microorganisms, fungi.

Leftover food, kitchen wastes such as unused vegetable stocks, and other natural wastes are examples of such wastes. Microorganisms and abiotic factors aid in the breakdown of complex substances into simple substances that disperse and decompose in the soil. These processes can be either fast or slow. During the process, biodegradable waste produces a large amount of microbial floral waste and a bad odour.

Definition of Non-biodegradable Material and Non-biodegradable Waste

Non-biodegradable substances are those that cannot be broken down easily by biotic or abiotic means and needs stronger chemical treatment to dispose of. Hence they are present for many long years causing varieties of pollution. Plastic, for example, is synthesised with specific qualities of strength, and life suited to the purpose of use. As intended they have a long life to be destroyed and pose a serious threat to the biotic species apart from the nauseating sight. They pollute the air, water, and soil which are essential for humans and other animals living. .

Non-biodegradable wastes are not environmentally friendly, posing a serious threat to the environment and surroundings. They are a serious threat to the atmosphere also. Refrigerant gases for example are highly atmospheric polluting to the extent of destroying the protecting ozone layer of our earth from UV light.

Examples of Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable Materials

Biodegradable materials are simple to work with. Most communities encourage people to compost their waste and then use it as organic matter in soil known as humus. Some examples of biodegradable materials are

  • Food and paper waste
  • Human squandering
  • Manure.
  • Sludge from sewage
  • Hospital squandering
  • Waste from slaughterhouses
  • Animals and plants that have died
  • Wasted food

Non-biodegradable materials are difficult to manage and handle. The substance that does not decompose will remain in the soil for thousands of years, causing significant damage. Some examples of non-biodegradable materials include

  • Metal
  • Batteries
  • Glass
  • Tetra packs
  • Medical waste like syringes, gloves, protective clothes etc
  • Plastic bottles
  • Carbon paper
  • Artificial rubber
  • Pesticides except for some organic pesticides
  • Artificial polymer
  • e-waste.

Difference between Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable Materials





Substances which can be broken down or decomposed by the natural environment and by the microorganism like- fungi, bacteria etc

Substances that cannot be broken down easily by natural conditions and by an organism and need severe chemical treatment to dispose .

Decomposition rate

Decomposition of the biodegradable material is faster

Natural decomposition is relatively very slow and remains in the soil for thousands of years.

Substances responsible for decomposition

Decomposition takes place in the presence of abiotic and microorganisms

Decomposition takes place only under stringer chemical methods and again gives rise to the new set of other pollutants.

Alternative use

Waste as well the decomposition is useful as a source of fertilizer, biogas etc.

Can be reduced, reused and recycled for alternate use.

Cost of recycling

The cost of recycling is very low as it is a natural process which takes place in the presence of microorganisms

Cost of recycling is high as the waste needs to be recycled in plants.


Food and paper waste, human squandering, manure etc.

Artificial rubber, tetra packs, plastic bottles etc.

Effect of Waste on the Environment

Waste materials is commonly grown in all countries worldwide. Each year, billions of tons of waste are generated. These wastes are the result of activities in our homes, businesses, and industries, and their disposal in large quantities is a major environmental issue.

Agriculture, municipal and industrial solid waste, and biomass deposits are major sources of large-scale land and water pollution.

Waste production degrades materials and energy while increasing societal environmental costs for collection, treatment, and disposal.

Landfill and open burning leave a lasting impression due to their greenhouse gas emission (methane and carbon dioxide) and transboundary movement of organic micropollutants (dioxins and furans) and volatile heavy metals.

Humans are becoming aware that waste can be a source of illness, disease, and infection, so they dump their waste, which is entirely biological, elsewhere. The amount of waste increased rapidly as a result of industrialization, urbanization, and societal development. The government of India also emphasizes the importance of waste management through programmes like- Swachh Bharat Abhiyan both for rural as well as urban areas which will not only increase the awareness among the people of the importance of waste management but it will also improve the country to move forward with the technique to develop more and more recycling plant in the country.

Practice Problems

Q1. Select the correct option of which represents the example of biodegradable waste.

  1. Glass
  2. Metals
  3. Battery
  4. Food and paper waste

Answer: (D)

Solution: Glass, metal, and battery are examples of non-biodegradable materials which cannot be decomposed by microorganisms. Food and paper waste is the examples of biodegradable material which can be decomposed by microorganisms.

Q2. Which among the given option is correct for biodegradable material?

  1. Biodegradable materials are difficult to manage and handle
  2. It is posing a serious threat to the environment and surroundings
  3. It is the leading cause of air, water, and soil pollution
  4. Material is decomposed by microorganisms and is classified as biodegradable waste

Answer: (D)

Solution: Biodegradable materials are easy to manage as it can be decomposed naturally with the help of microorganisms and does not pose a serious threat to the environment and surrounding. This type of material does not generally the cause of air, water and soil pollution. Whereas non-biodegradable materials are difficult to manage and handle as they cannot be degraded by microorganism and poses a serious threat to the environment and surroundings.

Q3. What is the difference between biodegradable waste and non-biodegradable waste?

Answer: Biodegradable wastes are waste materials that decompose and degrade due to factors such as temperature, UV radiation, oxygen, microorganisms, and abiotic conditions. Leftover food, kitchen wastes such as unused vegetable stocks, and other natural wastes are examples of such wastes. Non-biodegradable wastes are not environmentally friendly, posing a serious threat to the environment and surroundings. They are a serious threat to space. Plastic, for example, is ubiquitous in our daily lives.

Q4. What are the 3Rs of waste management?

Answer: The three 'R's of waste management are reduce, reuse, and recycle, which indicates

  • Lowering the quantity of waste we produce.
  • Finding alternative uses for items that would otherwise be discarded is what reusing entails.
  • Recycling is the transformation of something old and useless (such as plastic milk jugs) into something new and useful (like picnic benches, playground equipment and recycling bins).

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the recycling of waste material?
The process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects is known as recycling. This concept is frequently used to refer to the recovery of energy from waste materials. The ability of a material to regain its original properties determines its recyclability. It's a greener alternative to "traditional" waste disposal that can help save resources and cut greenhouse gas emissions. It can also lower energy consumption, air pollution (from incineration), and water pollution by reducing waste of potentially useful materials and the consumption of fresh raw materials (from landfilling).

Q2. What are the factors that affect the rate of degradation of biological waste?
The availability of inorganic nutrients, the presence of multiple substrates, the redox environment, substrate concentration, temperature, water activity, and the adaptive response of the microorganisms are all known to influence biodegradation rates.

Q3. What is biodegradable degradation?
Under normal environmental conditions, biodegradation is the degradation of materials into environmentally acceptable products such as water, carbon dioxide, and biomass by the action of naturally available microorganisms like bacteria, fungi etc.

Q4. What is a biodegradable polymer?
Biodegradable polymers are those that decompose into simpler units in either an aerobic or anaerobic environment with the assistance of microorganisms/enzymes. Protein, starch, cellulose etc are some examples of biodegradable polymers.

Related topics

Classification of polymer

Addition polymerisation

Use Of Polymer

Condensation polymerisation

Molecular mass of polymer


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