Made from renewable and reclaimed resources Grease and cut resistant Upscale design and appearance Perfect for catering Made with sugarcane, a rapidly renewable resource Made with PLA, a plant-based plastic Made with sugarcane, a rapidly renewable resource.
Plant-based, compostable or biodegradable bio-plastics, most commonly used for utensils, are marketed as a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic. But are they better or, ironically, even worse than plastic? We sat down with Céline Jennison, the founder of Plastic Tides, a nonprofit organization based in Ithaca, NY, that combines adventure & science to address plastic pollution via stand-up paddleboard expeditions.
She also shared her favorite alternatives and some solutions that you can easily integrate into your lifestyle. Essentially, it means that in an industrial composting facility—where they are able to break the bio-plastic down into tiny pieces and compost it with very high heat—it will biodegrade or compost. In a home-scale compost bin, they won’t really break down.
Another issue is that even when they are composted, the quality of the compost is not very good. The “compostable” bio-plastics break down into a very sticky, resin-y debris that creates poor compost that’s not rich and nutritious for plants like compost from truly organic materials. In Ithaca, NY, where I undertook my undergrad at Cornell University, the city doesn’t allow people to put compostable utensils into the waste stream because of the various issues - where to buy compostable dinnerware.
They can’t be recycled because they’re not plastic. If you put them into recycling, it can screw up the waste stream. Even when you’re recycling plastic, the plastic has to be separated by colors. So when the recycling arrives at the sorting facility, if they find items that can’t be recycled such as the compostable utensils, rather than taking the time to sort it all out, they just send it [all] to the landfill.
For example, if a restaurant offers "compostable" utensils when people get take-out, the odds that their customers are properly disposing of that compostable utensil are really low. And if they’re offering them in the restaurant and sending them to an industrial facility, they need a lot of signage to make sure that people put them in the composting and not in the recycling; and [they need to] sort through the recycling to remove any compostable utensils that were tossed in.
Yes. It takes a lot of resources to create a biodegradable or compostable utensil or piece of dishware. Most of the compostable utensils are made with corn. Corn is an annual crop that is intensive to grow and is usually grown in a monoculture system. It has to be seeded and watered, and the soil tilled.
The end result is that valuable agricultural land was used to create something that just gets thrown away. Then, there’s the environmental cost of disposal but also the environmental impact of the resources to make and transport the product in the first place. There’s also the irony that the compostable utensils usually come wrapped in a plastic film that’s not biodegradable or recyclable.
It all depends on the situation and how the plastic, or bio-plastic, is disposed of. If you’re going to recycle a plastic utensil, from an environmental standpoint, it’s actually a better choice than a compostable one, unless you’re sure the compostable item will be composted in an industrial facility. No.
The biggest issue is that it sends the message that we can still live in a disposable economy and have it both ways. Recycling is similar. By recycling, people feel that they’re doing their part for the environment, when what we really need to do is produce less waste in the first place.
If you need disposable plates, bowls or utensils, using soft, fast-growing trees or bamboo—i. e., primary organic materials that can truly be composted—is a better choice. You can also buy plates and bowls made out of leaves and other organic materials. The great thing about these is that they are visibly compostable, so if you are composting at your event, it’s more likely guests will understand what to do with them.
So with a little research, you can find better alternatives to fake bio-degradable stuff. For a big event such as a wedding or party, you can put in place a zero-waste party plan by schooling up on a few tips and tricks. Or hire a company that will provide the reusable cups and plates, deliver them, and picks them up after.
What are some of your favorite reusable solutions?Well, obviously ECOlunchbox! I like the Splash Box from the Blue Water Bento collection because I often make salads to go, and I can fit a lot more of my salad inside. Their ECOstainless Spork is great for soup, too. Klean Kanteen is my go-to water bottle; reusable steel or bamboo utensils; canvas bags for shopping; and I have an insulated food container that I’ve had for years and a stainless steel insulated mug.
For example, I make all of my body care products, and I sew my own little bags for produce and other items that I buy at the grocery store. I also use Khala Cloths at home to wrap and preserve food instead of plastic wrap, plastic baggies or even aluminum foil.
For example, you could start with how you save and preserve your food and leftovers at home, and integrate items like canning jars and Khala Cloths [reusable waxed canvas] into your kitchen - where to buy compostable dinnerware. Or you could focus on solutions to single-use items when you’re out and about, like bringing a reusable bottle with you instead of drinking bottled water and bringing your own reusable cutlery and even a metal or glass straw.
Two golden rules to the zero waste lifestyle are (1) planning ahead and (2) refusing unnecessary things. There’s no denying that zero waste practitioners spend time planning ahead, especially when traveling. And we’ve learned to refuse stuff like plastic-wrapped candy, useless freebies handed out at events and all the rest of it.
In many cases, this can save you tons of money! Céline is an avid water woman, outdoor educator, and sustainability consultant. She has been making her own medicine and cosmetics since the age of 12 and holds a BSc. from Cornell University in Plant Science and an MPhil from Oxford University in Environmental Change and Management.
Céline is an inspirational public speaker and uses the prism of an expedition to encourage people to reduce waste in their day-to-day life.
These days everyone is looking to "go green." Whether you're planning a party, wedding, business or social event, family picnic, or stocking up your eco-friendly coffee shop, cafe or church kitchen, we've got a great selection of compostable, biodegradable plates, bowls and platters from trusted green brands (where to buy compostable napkins).
The food service industry faces a large problem in the 21st century; a large portion of restaurant’s orders are takeaway or delivered via apps such as Menulog and Uber Eats which require orders to be packaged thoroughly. The result of this is that the food service industry now produces more disposable plastic tableware than any other industry on planet earth.
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