biodegradable inventions

Biodegradable Inventions: May Garbage Nourish The Earth

Photo courtesy of Inhabitat Blog via Flickr

By now, it’s news to no one that everything has a lifecycle, and at the end of that lifecycle is often the dump. But when a thing is biodegradable, the cycle continues sooner rather than later.

By definition, biodegradable means capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms. Yes, kind of like a dead body.

Gross? Maybe not as much as the alternative. A good example of nonbiodegradable grossness is plastic, when it forms a filmy mass of gunk upon the sea, choking birds and sea creatures. That’s gross.

Biodegradable products, on the other hand, are great. A lot of things are biodegradable eventually: for example, a paper towel will biodegrade in 2-4 weeks, whereas bottle caps take 400 years.

As trash levels peak, though, environmentalists and manufacturers are putting more thought into creating environmentally-friendly materials that break down quickly and safely.

Here are some of many amazing, biodegradable inventions that evidence the possibility of eliminating harmful plastics for good.


In North America, 12 million tons of textiles are wasted each year. In the U.S. this is about 5 percent of the total garbage in landfills.

To address this issue, Puma launched a line of biodegradable shoes and T-Shirts in 2012, which when disposed of properly would compost in 3 – 6 months. Other clothing lines, some which fall under the category of “ecocouture,” are similarly compostable.


Coffins don’t fill landfills, but they do take up a lot of room in the Earth. Cemetery space is running out, while the need for forests, gardens, and green space is huge.

The first fully biodegradable coffin, made by the Natural Burial Company was buried in 2007 — decomposing naturally and turning into fertilizer.  There are also biodegradable pod-like coffins and urns that sprout trees when “planted.”


Because e-waste is a huge issue, experts have taken on the challenge making biodegradable electronics. These include paper-based batteries that dissolve into skin, and most recently, wood-based computer chips.

Coffee cups

Considering the inventor of the K-Cup’s deep regret, it’s safe to say our coffee habits aren’t always the most sustainable. The discarded coffee pods alone could cover the world 12 times.

California startup Reduce. Reuse. Grow, though, has created a coffee cup that, after use, can be soaked and planted in the dirt to grow a plant.

What it all means

To consume responsibly, origins and usage are only part of the story. The more trash ends up in landfills or as pollution, the more important it will be to choose products — and dispose of them — in a way that goes easy on the planet.

Thanks to environmental advocacy and science, we can expect to see even more amazing biodegradable solutions in the future, so that trash can nourish the earth instead of diminishing it.

We measure success by the understanding we deliver. If you could express it as a percentage, how much fresh understanding did we provide?
Jennifer Markert