We are in the middle of summer and for many people that means more picnics, barbecues, birthday parties, graduation parties, family reunions, class reunions, camping trips, hikes, bridal showers, baby showers, or just nights when you don’t feel like doing the dishes. What do all these occasions have in common? They are all reasons we buy disposable plates, cups, bowls, and utensils.

Facts About Disposables

Problems With Disposables

  • Paper disposables are made from wood fiber and are causing the destruction of millions of acres of forests.
  • Plastic and styrofoam disposables are made from petroleum-based chemicals, are pollution causing, and are non-biodegradable.

Definitions

  • Biodegradable: A product will break down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass within a reasonable amount of time in the natural environment.
  • Compostable: Biodegradable, but with an added benefit; when they break down, they release valuable nutrients into the soil, aiding the growth of trees and plants. These products degrade within several months in an industrial composting facility and produce no toxic residues.
  • Sustainable: Process or state that can be maintained at a certain level indefinitely.

It is environmentally-preferable to use disposable products that are labeled ‘compostable’ rather than just ‘biodegradable’.

Importance of Choosing Biodegradable and Compostable Disposables

Biodegradable and compostable food service disposables provide a sustainable alternative to the styrofoam, plastic, and paper products.

  • They are made from readily renewable sources like bamboo, leaves,sugarcane fiber, corn, and potato.
  • They take less energy to manufacture.
  • They are not made from toxic or pollution-causing sources.
  • They can be composted to reduce the amount of waste generated.
  • They can also help reduce waste collection bills in counties and cities, which have a food waste/green waste pickup.

Verterra Dinnerware: Made From Fallen Leaves

Verterra dinnerware is made from fallen leaves; how cool is that?! The leaves are collected, steamed, heated, and pressurized. The plates are produced in India where the type of palm leaves used are plentiful.

Verterra dinnerware comes in plates and bowls. Although somewhat pricey (~$1.25/plate), they are by far the best looking eco-friendly disposable plates. They would work well for any occasion where you wanted a little extra-special flare. They are durable and do not absorb the food they touch. Although the company is not legally allowed to recommend reuse, customers have hand washed them and reused them several times (up to 10 times). They are also sun resistant, oven safe, and microwave safe (within reason).

Benefits:

  • Non-Toxic: Made from only two products: fallen leaves and water. They contain no plastics, glues, lacquers, or any other kind of adhesive that would potentially leech into food.
  • Sustainable: Verterra is made from fallen leaves, steam, heat and pressure only. No plants or trees are cut down to make Verterra. The fallen leaves are otherwise usually burned.
  • Biodegradable: Will completely biodegrade in two months when placed in a landfill or compost bin.
  • Compostable: Verterra dinnerware is BPI-certified compostable and tests show that compost that contains Verterra enhances plant growth over 15%.

StalkMarket Dinnerware: Made From Sugarcane Fiber

StalkMarket is headquartered in Portland OR and makes compostable products from bagasse, a sugarcane fiber-based paperboard. They make a wide array of plates, bowls, and cups.

Their products are microwave and freezer safe, as well as grease and cut resistant. They are also non-chlorine bleached. They are similarly priced to other disposable items (~$0.12/plate (9″)), which allows you to make a positive product selection.

Benefits:

  • Sustainable: Made from sugarcane fiber, a rapidly renewable resource.
  • Bidegradable: 100% compostable in approximately 30-90 days in a commercial composting facility. Home compostable as well.
  • Composable: Certified compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) and ASTM.

World Centric Dinnerware: Made From Wheat Straw, Corn Starch

World Centric makes compostable food service disposables for use in schools, hospitals, and restaurants as well as for home use. Their dinnerware products for home use include bowls, several styles and sizes of plates, and utensils. Their plates and bowls are made from wheat straw – not trees. Some bowls are made from bagasse, the sugarcane fiber leftover after juice extraction. Their utensils are made from non-GMO corn starch. As the company likes to say, they are “Made from plants, not petroleum”.

They are unbleached and are light brown in color. They are reasonably priced, approximately $0.56/plate (10″).

Benefits:

  • Sustainable: Corn, sugar cane, and wheat straw fiber used to make their products are annually renewable resources. Additionally, less energy is used to make their products (they can make three plates or bowls vs. one styrofoam).
  • Biodegradable: Their products will biodegrade in various amounts of time, but do require composting for biodegradation. (Corn starch utensils, 6-12 months in a commercial composting facility, 12-18 months in your backyard; wheat straw plates and bowls, one month in a commercial composting system, three months in your backyard.)
  • Compostable: Cornstarch products are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute. The bagasse or wheat straw products are ASTM 6400 certified.

Bambu Dinnerware: Made from Organic Bamboo

Bambu Veneerware is made from 100% organically grown bamboo, peeled directly from the bamboo stalk. They make plates in three sizes, utensils, and sporks intended for single use. (They do make other products that are for the home/reuse.)

They are on the pricier side (~$1.35/plate (11″)) but are nice looking plates; they could be used for ‘fancier’ events such as weddings or other catered events.

Benefits:

  • Non-Toxic: There are no harmful bleaches or dyes in this product.
  • Sustainable: Bamboo is a renewable resource.
  • Biodegradable: Biodegrades in 4-6 months.

Bare Dinnerware: Made from Bamboo, Sugarcane

Bare by Solo makes several types of disposable plates.

The renewable dinner plates are made from plant-based renewable resources (bamboo). They are cut-resistant, microwave-safe, and free of bleaches, dyes, inks, an fragrances. They cost approximately $0.21/plate.

The special occasion plates are made from annually renewable sugarcane and are compostable at commercial composting facilities.

Reusables Are Best, Smart Disposables are Second-Best

With all this talk of disposables, I feel it’s important to remind ourselves that reusable plates are best; ideally we don’t want to throw anything away. But we live in a throw away society and there are times when disposables might be a good option. But please consider treading lightly on the Earth if you do choose disposables; choose some of these biodegradable and compostable options. A slightly higher price (in some cases) is a small price to pay for our Earth home.


Wendy – ParentingTips365.com

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