Is foil biodegradable? (5 types of foils)

This blog article shall answer the questions about the biodegradability of foil.

It shall also look into the following sub-topics:

  • Types of foils.
  • Properties and uses of foils.
  • Properties and uses of different foil materials.
  • Eco-friendliness of different foil materials.

Is foil biodegradable?

No, foils are made from synthetic plastic polymers which are not susceptible to microbial degradation. To prevent environmental pollution, it is highly recommended that foils should be recycled.

What is biodegradation?

Biodegradation is the process by which natural organic materials are broken down into small particles, water, and carbon dioxide by microorganisms.

Some microorganisms produce methane instead of carbon dioxide, depending on the material broken down or their biological machinery.

The agents of biodegradation include:

  • Water.
  • Sunlight.
  • Temperature.
  • Bacteria.
  • Fungi.


This causes biodegradation by carrying the materials and causing mechanical breakdown.


Some light wavelengths cause the mechanical breakdown of organic materials into smaller particles.


Temperature causes the expansion and contraction of organic materials.

This causes the material to experience stress which in return results in mechanical breakdown.


Bacteria break down organic material through the process of respiration to form small particles which they use to acquire energy.

The most common and active bacteria include:

  • Pseudomonas.
  • Bacillus.
  • Mycobacteria.
  • Aspergillus.


They break down organic matter into small particles which they then assimilate into their body systems.

They include:

  • Yeasts.
  • Mushrooms
  • Molds.
  • Mildew.
  • Lichens.

What is a foil?

A foil is a thin sheet of metal like aluminum, silver, or plastic polymers usually made by hammering and rolling malleable materials.

There are different types of foils, depending on the material used to make them.

Aluminum foil.

These are thin sheets made from aluminum metal.

Aluminum is a chemical element found in group 13A of the periodic table.

It is the most abundant metallic element in the Earth’s crust.

It doesn’t occur as a free element but rather in compounds of aluminum silicates.

Properties of aluminum.

Aluminum contains the following properties.

  • It is ductile and malleable, that is, it can be rolled into a wire or sheets.
  • It is resistant to corrosion.
  • It is a good conductor of heat and electricity.

Uses of aluminum.

Aluminum is one of the most used elements.

It is mixed with other elements such as silicon and magnesium and used in the following ways.

  • In making parts of aircraft.
  • Used in making cooking utensils.
  • Used in making electrical conductors.
  • Used in making food processing equipment.
  • Used in making refrigerators.
  • Used in making air conditioning appliances.
  • Used in making milk cans, Jerry cans, and bottles 

The aluminum foils have some properties which are derived from the aluminum metal.

Properties of aluminum foil 

They include:

  • It has a shiny side and a matte side.
  • They have high reflectivity.
  • Low absorption and emission of radiation.

Uses of aluminum foil.

The following are the uses of aluminum foil.

  • It is widely used for the packaging of consumer goods such as candies and meat.
  • It is used in electromagnetic shielding.
  • It is used for barbecuing foods such as barbecued meat.
  • It is used to cover baking recipes such as dough to allow it to ferment.
  • It is used to line cabinets and drawers.
  • It is used in concealing credit card numbers.
  • Aluminum foil is used in gardens to repel garden insects.
  • It is used to polish silverware and jewelry.
  • To cover furniture and give it a better look.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) foil.

This is a material used in different manufacturing companies for adhesive covering. They are also called adhesive foils.

The foils are made from polyvinyl chloride plastic polymer which is one of the most used plastics in the world.

The PVC is made softer and more flexible by using chemicals such as phthalates. These chemicals are generally called plasticizers.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic contains the following properties:

  • It has high hardness and toughness.
  • It is highly elastic.
  • It has poor heat stability, but it is improved during PVC processing by adding heat stabilizers.
  • It is a good insulator because it has poor electrical conductivity.
  • It is resistant to chemicals such as acids, salts, bases, fats, and alcohol.
  • It is highly durable.
  • Water-resistant

Applications of PVC.

Polyvinyl chloride plastic is used in the following ways:

  • In making pipes.
  • It is used to insulate electric cables.
  • It is used in construction, where it is used for gutters, drainage, and plumbing.
  • Making commercial signage products like stickers and billboards.
  • PVC fabric is used in making clothes.
  • It is used in the medical field to make laboratory components and also for making catheters, hemodialysis sets, heart-lung bypass sets, etc.
  • It is used in making carpets and flooring materials.
  • It is used as a wire rope for general electrical purposes.
  • Making plastic bottles and plastic non-food packaging materials.
  • Making banking cards.

Applications of PVC foils.

The PVC foils have the following uses:

  • It is used for the fabrication of furniture covers.
  • Used in Window covers and sliding.
  • Used in plywood and MDF lamination.
  • Used in waterproof outdoor or indoor enclosures such as tents and making shower curtains.

Polyester foil.

These are foils made from polyester plastic.

Polyester is a polymer that contains a repeat of ester groups. It is also called polyethylene terephthalate.

They are either natural or synthetic, with natural polyester found in cuticles of some plants.

There are different types of polyesters depending on their chemical components, and the length of their monomers.

Properties of polyester plastic.

The following are the properties of polyester.

  • It is inert.
  • It is a strong and hard material.
  • It is durable.
  • It is resistant to microbial attack.
  • It is lightweight, and hence easy to carry.
  • It is fully recyclable.

Uses of polyester.

The following are the properties of polyester plastic.

  • It is used in making fabrics for knitting shirts, pants, jackets, bed sheets, blankets, upholstery, and hats.
  • It is used in the reinforcement of car tires.
  • Making conveyor belts.
  • Making safety belts.
  • Used as cushioning material in pillows.
  • Used in making bottles.
  • Used in making canoes.
  • Used in making insulating tapes.
  • Used in making liquid crystal displays.
  • Used in making filters

Copper foils.

These are foils that are made from copper metal.

Copper metal has the following properties:

  • Poor conductor of heat and electricity.
  • It does not react with water, although it reacts with oxygen to copper oxide.
  • It is easily combined with other metals to form copper alloys.
  • It is soft and malleable

Applications of copper foil.

Copper foils are used in the following ways:

  • In stained glass repair.
  • It is used in making electrical components.
  • In manufacturing pins, gaskets, screens, radiators, cable connectors, transformers, and conduits.
  • Repairing cracked windows.


Tin foils are produced from tin metal.

These foils were widely used in pre-world war II and it was replaced by aluminum foil.

Tin metal has the following properties:

  • It is soft and malleable.
  • It has a mirror-like appearance.
  • It combines with other metals to form alloys.
  • It is resistant to water corrosion but is corroded by acids and alkalis.

Applications of tin foil.

The following are the uses for tin foil.

  • Covering food products.
  • Covering homemakers and cookware.
  • Wrapping sandwiches and leftovers.
  • Can be used to craft gifts.
  • Can be used for kid’s art.

Gold foil.

This is a type of foil made from gold metal.

The properties of gold metal include:

  • It is an inert element.
  • It is slightly orange-yellow.
  • It is bright.
  • It is soft and malleable.
  • Resistant to most acids.

Uses of gold foil.

Gold foils are used in;

  • Gilding ornamental designs.
  • Making lettering and edgings on paper and wood.
  • Making designs on ceramics, glass, textile, and metal.

Is foil eco-friendly?

Yes, foil materials are eco-friendly because they are highly recyclable. This is according to a report on aluminum foil.

The materials are resistant to microbial degradation and therefore should not be discarded into the environment because they shall lead to landfills and pollution of water bodies.

Gold, copper, and silver are categorized as heavy metals and therefore they should not be thrown into the landfills or water bodies because they affect the metabolism of plants and animals

Burning of the materials can also produce toxic fumes which are harmful to plants and animals.


This article has answered the question about the biodegradability of foil.

It has also covered other areas such as:

  • Types of foils.
  • Uses of different types of foils.
  • Properties of different foil materials.
  • Eco-friendliness of foil materials.

For any questions or comments please use the comment section below.

(Frequently Asked Questions FAQs): is foil biodegradable?

What is aluminum foil made of?

They are made from aluminum metal which is heated, hammered, and rolled until it makes a thin sheet of like 0.2mm.

Can aluminum foil be composted?

No, aluminum much like all metals should not be added to compost because they are non-biodegradable and therefore non-compostable.

Metals such as aluminum might even affect the activity of some microorganisms, therefore, hindering their composting process.

Why is chocolate wrapped in aluminum foil?

Aluminum prevents the penetration of light, water, and humidity and therefore it is widely used in covering food products because it keeps them fresh and away from Microbial attacks.


Berger, Kenneth R. (December 2002). “A Brief History of Packaging”. The University of Florida. Archived from the original on 9 September 2014. Retrieved 24 September 2014.

Schmidbaur, Hubert; Cronje, Stephanie; Djordjevic, Bratislav; Schuster, Oliver (2005). “Understanding gold chemistry through relativity”. Chemical Physics. 311 (1–2): 151–161. Bibcode:2005CP….311..151S. doi:10.1016/j.chemphys.2004.09.023

Degarmo, E. Paul; Black, J T.; Kohser, Ronald A. (2003). Materials and Processes in Manufacturing (9th ed.). Wiley. p. 386. ISBN 0-471-65653-4.

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