Compostable or Biodegradable To-Go Containers
I've long been a proponent of recyclable to-go containers. I'll do almost anything to avoid using foam containers, as you may have read in my Random Thought posting on To Foam or Not To Foam. I was pleased when I learned that in early 2005, Starbucks will be testing hot beverage cups with recycled content (FDA giving them approval this fall to have containers with 10% recycled content), with hopes of releasing the cups to their stores later in the year. That's great news, and a good start in moving toward more ecological options for to-go containers.
What has caught my attention most these days is compostable to-go containers. There are a few aspects of this technology I like; reducing land-fill contributions, increasing composting to enrich the soil, and a reduction of reliance on petrochemicals. I can live my on-the-go lifestyle and live by my environmental convictions too.
When I started my research I was dubious that I'd find many resources for my education or to share with you. What a pleasant surprise I had. There is quite a bit of information, not only about the various options - which are growing all the time, but also about the number of places that are using the very products I'm interested in.
Here's a run down on what I have found to date. Products including plates, bowls, utensils, napkins, cold beverage cups, and a variety of to-go containers are available. The materials used to make these various products are wheat-based cutlery, leaves for plates, bowls and platters, wheat injection molded biodegradable products, starches and grass fibers for biodegradable bowls and such, limestone, fiber and starch (from potatoes, corn, wheat, rice and tapioca), and Bagasse or sugar cane fibers for various containers.
I mentioned there are more manufacturers than I had initially anticipated. Along with the information shared above, here are two other manufactures for you to look into; Nature Works who uses a patented PLA polymer for a variety of container styles and Nat-ur, manufacturer of biodegradable packaging.
Then I found articles about universities like Humboldt State University, grocery stores like Wild Oats Market, cafes like the Nomad Cafe and Cuckoo's Nest in Oakland, and green cafeterias like at the EPA office at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.
I loved seeing an article that came out of discussions about what the best to-go cup is for coffee by Mark Inman at Taylor Maid Farms. An article by the Recycling Association of Minnesota about why to buy recycled products (like for school lunch trays, cups and plates) listed some interesting facts about recycling and landfills as part of its discussion of the benefits of compostable containers.
One issue that I've not touched on but is important is health related issues from eating or drinking out of foam or plastic containers. By providing biodegradable or compostable alternatives for your to-go containers, you are contributing to the health of your customers. That's a worthwhile consideration.
I've presented a wide range of information for you to digest, if you'll excuse the pun. Prices of non-foam containers are coming down -- dramatically in many cases. This issue is a great one to take a visible stand on as part of your environmental or sustainable business practice. And when you start using compostable or biodegradable containers, post that information for your customers to rad about; it will build your reputation in their eyes.
Using compostable or biodegradable to-go containers is an ECOnomically Sound practice.
Posted by Kit Cassingham