Biodegradable and Compostable Materials for Agro-Waste Management

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Biodegradable and compostable materials are designed to decompose naturally over time, returning to the environment as organic matter. In agro-waste management, these materials offer a sustainable alternative to traditional plastics and other non-biodegradable materials, reducing waste accumulation and promoting a circular economy.

Impact on climate action

Biodegradable and Compostable Materials for Agro-Waste Management mitigate climate change by reducing methane emissions from decomposing agricultural waste. By promoting sustainable waste management practices and minimizing landfill use, these innovations contribute to carbon sequestration, soil health improvement, and overall environmental sustainability, fostering climate resilience in agricultural systems.


  • Bio-Based Polymers: These materials are derived from renewable resources, such as plant starches (e.g., corn, potato), cellulose, or bacterial fermentation. They offer similar properties to conventional plastics but can biodegrade under specific conditions.
  • Compostable Polymers: These materials break down into organic matter under controlled composting conditions, leaving no harmful residues.
  • Biodegradation Mechanisms: Biodegradation occurs through the action of microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, that break down the material into simpler organic compounds.
  • Composting Infrastructure: Effective composting requires proper infrastructure and management to ensure optimal conditions for decomposition.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Advanced Bio-Based Polymers: Researchers and startups are developing new bio-based polymers with improved performance characteristics, such as better barrier properties, heat resistance, and strength, making them more suitable for a wider range of applications.
  • Home Compostable Materials: Innovations in compostable materials are focusing on developing materials that can decompose in home composting environments, making composting more accessible to consumers.
  • Marine Biodegradable Materials: Researchers are developing biodegradable materials that can decompose in marine environments, addressing the issue of plastic pollution in oceans.
  • Bioplastics from Food Waste: Food waste can be used as a feedstock for producing bioplastics, creating a circular economy solution for both food waste and plastic pollution.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Sustainable Packaging Solutions
  • Circular Economy Initiatives
  • Bio-Based Polymers Advancements
  • Home Composting Technologies
  • Marine Biodegradable Solutions
  • Food Waste Utilization
  • Innovations in PHA-Based Bioplastics
  • Seaweed-Based Packaging Materials
  • Edible Packaging Technologies
  • Agricultural Mulch Film Innovations
  • Composting Infrastructure Development
  • Biodegradable Disposable Tableware
  • Life Cycle Assessment Research
  • Improving Composting Accessibility
  • Biodegradation Mechanisms Study

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. TIPA:
    • Technology Enhancement: TIPA offers innovative biodegradable and compostable packaging solutions designed to address the environmental impact of conventional plastics. Their technology focuses on developing flexible packaging materials that mimic the functionality of traditional plastics while being fully compostable.
    • Uniqueness: TIPA stands out for its commitment to providing packaging solutions that offer end-of-life options aligned with circular economy principles. Their materials are designed to break down into compost, leaving no harmful residues behind. Additionally, TIPA’s packaging maintains the required barrier properties for food and other perishable goods, ensuring product freshness and shelf life.
    • End-User Segments: TIPA serves a variety of industries, including food and beverage, fashion, personal care, and e-commerce, where the demand for sustainable packaging solutions is growing. Their products are particularly well-suited for companies looking to reduce their environmental footprint and meet consumer demand for eco-friendly packaging options.
  2. Notpla:
    • Technology Enhancement: Notpla specializes in developing biodegradable and edible packaging solutions derived from natural materials, such as seaweed. Their technology focuses on creating packaging alternatives that are fully biodegradable, compostable, and even edible, offering a sustainable solution to single-use plastics.
    • Uniqueness: Notpla’s innovative approach to packaging involves utilizing seaweed, a renewable resource abundant in coastal areas, to create packaging solutions that are not only environmentally friendly but also edible and nutritious. Their materials can be used for a variety of applications, including food and beverage packaging, edible sachets, and single-use items like straws and utensils.
    • End-User Segments: Notpla caters to industries such as food service, events, and hospitality, where the demand for sustainable packaging solutions is high. Their products offer a unique selling point by providing a viable alternative to single-use plastics that aligns with consumer preferences for eco-friendly and innovative packaging options.
  3. Full Cycle Bioplastics:
    • Technology Enhancement: Full Cycle Bioplastics specializes in developing biodegradable and compostable plastics derived from organic waste streams, such as agricultural and food waste. Their technology focuses on transforming organic waste into PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates), a biopolymer that can be used to produce a wide range of plastic products.
    • Uniqueness: Full Cycle Bioplastics stands out for its closed-loop approach to bioplastics production, where organic waste is used as feedstock to produce biodegradable plastics, which can then be composted to regenerate soil health. Their technology not only addresses the environmental issues associated with conventional plastics but also contributes to the reduction of organic waste and the promotion of circular economy principles.
    • End-User Segments: Full Cycle Bioplastics serves industries such as packaging, agriculture, and consumer goods, where the demand for sustainable and biodegradable materials is increasing. Their products offer a unique value proposition by providing a closed-loop solution to plastic waste while offering the same performance and versatility as traditional plastics.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Wageningen University & Research:
    • Research Focus: Wageningen University & Research is a leader in the development of biodegradable and compostable materials for Agro-Waste Management, focusing on the valorization of agricultural residues and by-products through innovative biopolymer production and processing techniques.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the exploration of novel feedstock sources, biochemical pathways, and fermentation processes for the sustainable production of biodegradable polymers, bioplastics, and packaging materials from agricultural biomass. They also investigate the mechanical properties, degradation kinetics, and environmental impacts of these materials to ensure their compatibility with composting and soil amendment processes.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in agricultural packaging, mulching films, and soil amendment products, offering renewable alternatives to conventional plastics and synthetic fertilizers. By promoting the use of biodegradable and compostable materials, Wageningen’s research contributes to reducing plastic pollution, enhancing soil health, and closing nutrient loops in agricultural systems.
  2. University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: University of California, Berkeley conducts pioneering research on Biodegradable and Compostable Materials for Agro-Waste Management, leveraging its expertise in bioengineering, materials science, and environmental sustainability to develop innovative solutions for managing agricultural waste streams.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the design and synthesis of biodegradable polymers, bio-based resins, and composite materials derived from agricultural residues such as crop residues, food waste, and forestry residues. They also explore advanced processing techniques, additive formulations, and material compatibilization strategies to improve the mechanical strength, thermal stability, and biodegradation performance of these materials under diverse environmental conditions.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in agricultural film mulches, horticultural containers, and erosion control mats, providing biodegradable alternatives to petroleum-based plastics and synthetic fibers. By developing sustainable materials for Agro-Waste Management, UC Berkeley’s research supports the transition to a circular economy, where organic waste is valorized and recycled into valuable products for agricultural and environmental applications.
  3. Cornell University:
    • Research Focus: Cornell University is engaged in innovative research on Biodegradable and Compostable Materials for Agro-Waste Management, focusing on developing bio-based polymers, bio-composites, and biodegradable packaging solutions from renewable feedstocks.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the utilization of agricultural residues, algae biomass, and microbial fermentation products as precursors for producing biodegradable plastics, biofilms, and hydrogels with tailored properties and functionalities. They also investigate the degradation pathways, microbial interactions, and soil microbiome dynamics associated with the composting and biodegradation of these materials in agricultural and urban environments.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in crop protection, seed coatings, and controlled-release fertilizers, offering environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional agrochemicals and plastic-based agricultural inputs. By advancing Biodegradable and Compostable Materials, Cornell’s research contributes to reducing plastic waste, enhancing soil fertility, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices for future generations.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Biodegradable and compostable materials are being increasingly adopted in various applications, including food packaging, agricultural mulch films, and disposable tableware. For example, many supermarkets are now offering fruits and vegetables in compostable packaging or with edible coatings, while some food brands are transitioning to bio-based packaging materials for their products.