Biodegradable Basically, if something is biodegradable it breaks down into natural elements, carbon dioxide and water vapor with the presence of naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae. Ideally, items break down and leave no harmful chemicals or substances in the soil. Usually, products that are derived from plants, animals, or natural minerals are biodegradable; however, just about everything is biodegradable, although some items will take hundreds of thousands of years to break down.
The best biodegradable materials will break down quickly rather than taking years and the right conditions are important to encourage biodegradability. Products that will biodegrade in nature or in home compost heaps may not biodegrade in landfills, where there’s not enough bacteria, light, and water to move the process along. When biodegradable materials are dumped into landfills and buried, the beneficial microorganisms cannot survive because there is very little oxygen. When that happens, the products break down anaerobically (without oxygen) and create methane gas. While there are some landfills that collect this harmful greenhouse gas (biogas) and use it to create electricity, most do not.