For many operators, disposable servingware and dishes have become a necessary part of doing business. Even if you’re not going to go “fully green” there are lots of smaller steps you can take to make your usage of disposables a little more eco-friendly.
The natural way
Polylactic acid, or PLA, has been used to make disposables for several years now and remains one of the more popular “green” materials. Although this cornstarch-based compound will break down in a commercial composter within one to two months, it is not heat-resistant, so it’s best suited for items such as soft drink cups, straws or refrigerated takeout containers. Made from a PLA resin that’s 100 percent compostable, Fabri-Kal’s new Greenware On-The-Go Boxes can accommodate lunch-sized combos (think sandwich and fruit, or veggies and dip).
During the sugar-refining process, the spent cane stalks have traditionally been burned or discarded. But bagasse, the fibrous waste that remains after extraction, can be processed and made into dinnerware. Fully biodegradable and compostable, bagasse has a slight edge over PLA products in that it can take moderate heat (up to around 200°F.), making it more suitable for hot foods. Greenwave International’s Evolution line of bagasse products includes not only the traditional round and compartmented round plates, but also compartmented rectangular plates and clamshell containers.
Palm leaves might seem an unlikely component for dinnerware, but they form the basis of the Verterra collection of disposables. This compostable line of plates, bowls and trays is constructed out of fallen palm leaves which, through the use of steam, heat and pressure, are manufactured into dinnerware without using any bonding agents or chemicals. The material is microwaveable for up to two minutes or ovenable for up to 45 minutes at 350°F.
It’s in the bag
If the more traditional paper- or fiber-based disposables are your choice, you’ll find an ever-increasing number of products made at least partially from recycled materials. And many of these are available at a price point equal to—or at least not significantly higher than—their non-recycled counterparts.
Let’s look at what might be in your average carry-out bag, starting with the bag itself. The traditional bleached white paper bag can easily be replaced with an unbleached bag; some manufacturers offer handled carry-out bags made from 100 percent recycled paper. Plates made from recycled fiber combine durability with eco-friendliness and many have the added benefit of being compostable after usage.
The Chinet line of molded fiber tableware from Huhtamaki comes in a variety of designs and sizes, ranging from a small side dish up to a 10-inch compartmented plate. For soup and other hot foods, the Evolution World line of containers from Eco Products is made from 24 percent post-consumer recycled content. The containers are available in sizes ranging from 8 to 32 ounces, and can be custom printed as well. As for soft drinks, check with your bottler to see if they offer a recycled cup, or select a “greener” wax-treated paper cup, such as the Solo Bare cup.