Any item that can be broken down into organic compounds by nature is considered biodegradable, including paper, fruits, vegetables and other food products. Generally speaking, all items listed as biodegradable must be mineral-based, animal-based or plant-based
When biodegradable items are disposed of, they decay over time due to moisture, air and the presence of microorganisms in the soil. However, the majority of man-made items cannot be broken down by these processes and are thus considered non-biodegradable. Non-biodegradable items include aluminum cans, electronic components, synthetic fabrics and glass products. All plastics and other petroleum-based products are also extremely non-biodegradable and pose serious problems for the environment. One such plastic is polythene, which is used to make plastic bags and is one of the most common waste items throughout the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
The American Chemistry Council notes that a few plastics have been developed that can allegedly biodegrade at a relatively quick rate. However, it also points out that these claims are based on tests done under highly controlled conditions in commercial composting facilities, where biodegradation is accelerated by the addition of large quantities of light, air and water. Under normal conditions, these plastics can still biodegrade, but at a much slower rate than organic matter.