As a green event planner, I often hear, “but if I use those new compostable plates, then I am being green…right?”
The companies who produce single use products are trying very hard to convince us to continue using their products. In response to a more savvy consumer, many new products have hit the shelves.
Compostable vs. Biodegradable vs. Recyclable
'Compostable' products are 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. These products are commonly made out of polylactic acid, sugarcane fibre or vegetable starch. “Bagasse” is sugarcane fibre.
A backyard composter is NOT an industrial composter and while you can compost small quantities of these products in your backyard composter, you certainly cannot compost the volume of the materials which would result from an event.
Do not put compostables into your recycling!
‘Biodegradable' simply means that a product will break down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass within a reasonable amount of time in the natural environment.
Biodegradability is a desirable feature in cleaning agents, but not really that desirable in single use food service items. Biodegradable products can be disposed of in your garbage, but the landfills lack the microorganisms and oxygen required for the waste to biodegrade in a timely manner.
‘Recyclable’ products are anything that can be remade into something new. While most paper recycling can’t deal with food contamination, forcing you to throw out the used food service item, you can purchase single use products made out of recycled material.
So what does this all mean? It means that you have to continue to educate yourself and make informed choices on behalf of your clients. Single use items are "single use" and at the end of the day, you have to remember that and make your choices and decisions accordingly.
If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck.....it is still a duck.