The Small Business Guide To Eco-friendly Take-Out

The Small Business Guide To Eco-friendly Take Out

We all know that plastic is damaging to the environment. Every part of its lifecycle – from production to use to disposal – dumps toxic chemicals into our bodies and into the environment which makes getting rid of plastic one of the best ways to go green. If you’re a small business, though, it can be hard to find economic and eco-friendly replacements for common plastic products, especially when it comes to items like take-out containers, cups, plates, and straws that need to be cheap and disposable. It might seem like plastic and Styrofoam are your only options, but recent years have seen a surge in the development of new, non-toxic materials that can take the place of environmentally damaging plastics without hurting your bottom line. So whether you’re a restaurant looking to cut down on waste and impress your customers with your green credentials or you just want to make your office kitchen more eco-friendly, here’s your guide to choosing the compostable kitchen products that are right for your business.

PLA
PLA Compostable Containers - Clamshell

PLA Compostable Containers – Clamshell

The discovery of just how dangerous plastic is to both people and the environment has led scientists on a search to find new, less toxic substitutes for plastic. One of the most successful of these has been polylactic acid – PLA – a bioplastic derived from corn starch instead of petroleum. PLA is biodegradable, which means you’ll be keeping plastic out of landfills, and will decompose without leaving behind toxic chemicals. It is also free from additives like phthalates and BPA that can leach from other plastics into food and beverages.

Pros:

  • Compostable
  • Perfect for cold beverage cups and take-out containers

Cons:

  • Will not biodegrade except under composting conditions, so you’ll need to find an industrial compost site for your waste disposal.
  • Non-microwavable
  • Tolerates heat up to 120° and is not recommended for hot liquids.

PLA products: square deli containersclamshell containersstrawscold cupscutlery

Potato Starch (Taterware)
Taterware Cutlery

Taterware Cutlery

Chemically-altered potato starch can be molded just like plastic to make sturdy, biodegradable products like cutlery, plates, and take-out containers. Made from non-genetically modified (GMO-free) starches such as low-grade potatoes, these products are manufactured from renewable resources and are sturdy enough to meet your tableware and event needs. They feel similar to plastic, and are actually dishwasher safe and reusable as well.

Pros:

  • Dishwasher safe
  • Microwavable
  • Tolerates heat up to 150°

Cons:

  • The additives necessary to make potato starch products can slow down decomposition, which means that these products require industrial compost conditions to break down and currently do not meet the ASTM D 6400 requirements for compostability in California and may not meet the standards for compostability in your area. Check with your local composting facility to verify these items can be composted.

Potato starch products: cutlery

Bagasse
Compostable Hot Cups

Compostable Hot Cups

If you want to avoid plastics altogether, bagasse, a cardboard-like material made from sugarcane pulp, is the way to go. It’s waterproof and heat-tolerant,  which means customer won’t have to worry about sticking it in the freezer or microwave. And, because it will break down both in an industrial compost bin as well as under normal soil conditions, you’ll be helping the environment no matter where it gets tossed out.

Pros:

  • Compostable and biodegradable
  • Tolerates heat up to 200° and will hold hot liquids like coffee, tea, and soup.
  • Microwavable

Cons:

  • Not reusable like plastics
  • Not sturdy enough for cutlery

Bagasse products: soup containershot cupsround containerscup holdershinged containers

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