Tuesday, February 23, 2010

TakeOutWithOut - Forgo the Food Packaging

I heard about this new campaign recently called TakeOutWithOut and decided this was a must share.
The Mission: Enabling people & restaurants to reduce restaurant waste by forgoing excess food packaging.
A few thoughts on why this is so sweet:
1) I don’t need 50 napkins every time I buy a burrito.
2) If I’m grabbing take out and going home, I don’t need a plastic (or even a biodegradable) fork. There’s no need to waste the fork and metal tastes better in my mouth anyway.
3) There’s a reason 6-packs were built with handles – that way you can carry them back to your house/car/apartment/bike? without the plastic bag.
4) I’m sick of the awkward stares I get from cashiers (even in San Francisco – heart of green) every time I refuse a bag, cutlery, napkins, condiments… the list goes on.
4b) I’m sorry to admit that some of these confused stares (or maybe just a ‘not wanting to deal them’ attitude) have been bad enough that I’ve actually taken the excess packaging… which is obviously the worst way to go.
So needless to say – go ToWo. I’m still dubious of the “glass straws” you’re pushing (I’m not a straw biter, but it just seems dangerous) – everything else I’m on board with though.
(ps – just because we’re helping businesses switch over to compostable food ware or other products, doesn’t mean it’s not important to reduce or reuse first. don’t forget that.)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Some Compostable Cutlery… Not Compostable… Boooooo

One bad apple can give all the others a bad name.  A number of companies and perhaps more have been distributing compostable cutlery or utensils that really fall short of their name.  A “compostable” utensil (fork, spoon, knife, or even the magical spork) is one that is made of sustainable materials and does not contain traditional plastic or toxic chemicals.  Here is the fancy definition if you really want to know:
…capable of undergoing biological decomposition in a compost site as part of an available program, such that the plastic is not visually distinguishable and breaks down to carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass, at a rate consistent with known compostable materials (e.g. cellulose) and leaves no toxic residue.” – American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM).
UPDATE (8/3/2010): Viv Video | “Biodegradable Packaging vs Compostable Packaging – DON’T get Greenwashed”

We touched on this news in an earlier blog post where Whole Foods acknowledged that their Taterware forks & spoons are not compostable. So here is some more meat to the story.  Third-party testing of samples of the following companies’ cutlery has shown that these utensils contain large amounts of plastic and are not compostable:
Dispozo sample had 96% polystyrene by weight
EPS Spud Ware sample had 41% polypropylene homopolymer by weight
TaterWare sample had 73% isotactic polypropylene by weight
Terra Wave sample had 57% polypropylene block copolymer by weight
Basically, this stuff is bogus and should never be called compostable.  As icing on the cake, none of the above brands are certified as compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI).
Remember how one bad apple can also spoil the whole bunch?  So one of these utensils by the brands above gets tossed into a composting bin.  Then it ends up in a composting pile, which then becomes fertilizer.  Then that organic fertilizer ends up back in the food chain and poly-fill-in-the-blanks (= not-so-edible substances) with it too.  Not good.
Here is our recommendation.  Stop buying the stuff above.  Switch to something actually compostable. And yes, we can help you find products that are actually compostable, actually green, and actually do what they’re supposed to.
(If you’d like more information on the above, please feel free to email us at partners@vivbizclub.com)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Find a Styrofoam Ban (or Bans) in Your City/State

I was googling expanded polystyrene (typically known as “styrofoam”) food packaging bans the other day searching for a list of all the cities in the US that had banned polystyrene (aka PS). I was having quite a tough time finding the answer (though I eventually did… as any persistent googler does).
As a result, I wanted to draw up a quick post with the findings. Enjoy!
There are 100+ total polystyrene bans across cities in the US. I’ve listed most of the major cities & counties with polystyrene bans below along with reference links to either the ordinances themselves or articles on the bans. The “effective date” for the ban is also provided.
Most of the full bans are for polystyrene food ware (e.g., to go containers) and force restaurants and businesses to use recycled plastic or compostable alternatives (awesome!) to cut down on trash and landfilling. The partial bans typically ban the use of styrofoam at any city owned building or event. If we’re missing any cities or counties, let us know!
Alameda, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 1/1/2008
Albany City – Styrofoam Banned – 9/1/2008
Aliso Viejo, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 6/2/2004
Berkeley, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 6/1/1990
Calabasas, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 4/1/2008
Capitola, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 6/1/2009
Carmel, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 1/1/1989
Emeryville, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 3/1/2007
Fairfax, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 1/1/1993
Freeport, ME – Styrofoam Banned – 1/1/1990
Glen Cove, NY – Styrofoam Banned – 6/1/1989
Hecules, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 5/1/2008
Huntington Beach, CA – Partial Styrofoam Ban – 4/19/2004
Laguna Beach, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 7/1/2008
Los Angeles, CA – Partial Styrofoam Ban – 
Malibu, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 7/1/2005
Milbrae, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 1/1/2008
Monterey, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 8/17/2009
Newport Beach, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 6/1/2009
Oakland, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 1/1/2007
Pacific Grove, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 6/1/2008
Pacifica, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 1/1/2010
Palo Alto, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 4/22/2010
Pittsburg, CA – Partial Styrofoam Ban – 1/1/1993
Portland, OR – Styrofoam Banned – 6/12/1990
Rahway, NJ – Styrofoam Banned – 12/1/1996
Richmond, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 7/1/2010
San Bruno, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 4/1/2010
San Clemente, CA – Partial Styrofoam Ban – 3/1/2004
San Francisco, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 6/1/2007
San Jose, CA – Partial Styrofoam Ban – 11/10/2009
San Juan County, WA – Styrofoam Banned – 4/22/2010
San Mateo County – Styrofoam Banned – 4/1/2008
Santa Cruz, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 10/18/2008
Santa Monica, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 2/9/2008
Scotts Valley, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 6/17/2009
Seattle, WA – Styrofoam Banned – 7/1/2010
Sonoma, CA – Partial Styrofoam Ban – 1/1/1989
Suffolk County, NY – Styrofoam Banned – 1/1/1998
Ventura County, CA – Partial Styrofoam Ban – 10/1/2004
West Hollywood, CA – Styrofoam Banned – 7/1/1990
Other cities currently considering bans:
Chicago, IL – Proposed Styrofoam Ban
New York, NY – Partial Styrofoam Ban Proposed
Boston, MA – Proposed Styrofoam Ban
Philadelphia, PA – Proposed Styrofoam Ban

Friday, February 12, 2010

“Taterware Utensils Not Compostable” says Whole Foods in San Francisco

Our offices are based in SOMA San Francisco and after picking up a salad at Whole Foods for lunch today, I saw the following sign next to their disposable cutlery – Taterware. If you can’t read the sign it says:

“Dear customers, we have been informed by Golden Gate Disposal & Recycling that the present formulation of Taterware cutlery has not been found to be compostable in the commercial compost program at Jepson Prairie Organics where our compost is currently being sent. The product is not presently acceptable in the San Francisco composting program or in its recycling program.”
First, I’ll say this was not a suprise to me, as Taterware is not certified as compostable by theBiodegradable Products Institute (BPI). Further, I have reports on my desk from Cambridge Polymer Group which state that Taterware is made up of 73% polypropylene (or plastic).
I imagine though that this will come as quite a surprise to the many business owners & consumers that use Taterware everyday, expecting it to compost in a commercial composting facility.
Something that many folks don’t know is that “biodegradable” does not mean “compostable”, and while Taterware is labeled biodegradable it was never certified compostable.
I am happy to say that our food ware partner, World Centric, uses cutlery that has been 3rd party tested as containing no plastic and is currently under process of ASTM 6400 testing. (Further speaking to the integrity behind World Centric, they share on their website, that they were previously using cutlery which despite being BPI certified and meeting ASTM standards was found to be not fully compostable. They discontinued the corn-resin which was causing the issue and have now had their utensils re-tested and confirmed as fully compostable containing 0% PP).
If you have further questions, there’s a Whole Foods contact (noted in the sign) that you can reach out to. We’ll be reaching out to Whole Foods to see if they’re interested in switching over to World Centric’s compostable cutlery: a mix of 70% non-GMO PLA and 30% talc.
(ps – sorry for the spills on the sign, looks like Whole Foods customers were a bit messy today.)
UPDATE (8/3/2010): Viv Video | “Biodegradable Packaging vs Compostable Packaging – DON’T get Greenwashed”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Savings Calculator at VivBizClub.com

You may (or may not) know that we just launched VivBizClub.com a few days ago. There are still a few kinks to be worked out, so if you don’t mind, please bear with us on those; and if you would like to share any thoughts or feedback, we’d love to hear from you – please email us at partners@vivbizclub.com.
As such though, we want to introduce you to the site, the Viv Business Club, and how to get the most out of your experience through a series of posts regarding “How to Best Use VivBizClub.com.”

#1 – The Savings Calculator:

You’ll notice on both our home and products pages a widget called the Savings Calculator. This widget is designed to help you estimate your annual savings when you switch over to purchasing your green products from Viv suppliers.
For the time being, we’ve listed about 20 of the most popular products carried by World Centric, Office Depot, and Green11. Simply:
1. Select a product from the drop down
2. Punch in your cost today (per case)
3. Enter the number of units in the case you currently buy
4. Enter the number of cases you use each month, and
5. Hit Calculate
The calculator displays the Viv price per case and then calculates your estimated annual savings. (it will also automatically adjust for any differences in the number of units in your case v. a case from a Viv supplier).
A few quick notes:
– Just enter numbers; no need for any commas or dollar signs
– We’re going to build our full product list into the calculator soon; please be patient with us as we get that up
Let’s run an example:
Say you’re a local restaurant owner with 3 stores; each store uses biodegradable trash bags in the kitchen. Those bags can be a bit pricey and you’re currently paying $95.79 for 90 garbage bags (the big ones – 39 gallons). Note: this is a real price based off the top result on google when you search for 39 gallon biodegradable trash bag. Lastly, you go through about 3 bags each day per restaurant, so 9 total per day for your 3 restaurants; that’s 270 bags across all your entire business each month.
Product = 39 Gallon Trash Bag
Cost Today (per case) = 95.79 (remember, no $ needed)
Units per case = 90
Cases Used = 2.7
Viv Price (per case) = $112.2
Yearly Savings with Viv = $1,467.72
(if this math looks a little funny, that’s because cases of 39 gallon biodegradable trash bags from World Centric contain 200 bags each; don’t worry though, the Yearly Savings number has already accounted for this case unit difference).
So as you can see, we believe you’re going save big on your eco-friendly supplies when you start buying with Viv. We’ve gotten some large discounts on a wide variety of green products from our suppliers and we hope you’ll run a few numbers with our Savings Calculator and see the savings first hand!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bagasse - Overview & Commercial Packaging Applications of Bagasse

Bagasse is the fibrous residue remaining after sugarcane or sorghum stalks are crushed to extract their juice. Traditionally bagasse has been a waste by-product of the sugarcane production process. More recently is has been used as a fuel source for sugar mills, a fiber for paper production, and as an annually renewable resource in the production of sustainable materials and packaging.

Bagasse Production

Once sugarcane is harvested it is brought to a milling plant where it is crushed – typically with a series of large rollers. These rollers crush the sugarcane stalks and thus extract the juice from the sugarcane. The juice is collected and removed to be processed into sugar. The remaining fibrous stalk (which has been crushed, squeezed, and removed of it’s juice) is bagasse.
Viv Video | Bagasse Products & Packaging – Why We’re Big Fans of Bagasse

Typically, 10 parts of crushed sugarcane will yield 3 parts of wet bagasse. Once removed, bagasse will be stored (either wet or dry) for one of its three major uses: fuel, paper, or packaging.

Bagasse Applications

Fuel: Many sugar mills will burn the remaining bagasse as fuel to power the mill. Bagasse fuel burn is considered carbon neutral as it releases an amount of CO2 equivalent to the amount consumed by the sugarcane during its growth period.
The negative externalities of burning bagasse are moderate,with the most significant pollutants being particulate matter and ash. Bagasse also burns less sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) than conventional fossil fuels since it contains lower levels of both sulfur and nitrogen.
Paper and Pulp: An estimated 5-10% of all paper is made from agricultural crops (i.e. not from trees) and a one of the most important contributors is bagasse. Bagasse contains a large amout of short fibers called ‘pith’. Around 30% of these fibers are removed from the bagasse prior to pulping. Despite these efforts however a large amount of pith remains. Traditionally, there has been a perception among pulp and paper manufacturers that this remaining pith leads to poor paper production rates when compared to other forms of pulp (e.g., eucalypt pulp). This is not the case however and it has been found that bagasse can be processed just as efficiently as other forms of pulp. Bagasse fibers have been found to be well suited for tissue, corrugating medium board, newsprint, and writing paper.
Because of the short lifecycle and fast growth of sugarcane plant, bagasse is viewed as an annually renewable resource. As such, bagasse paper and products have a significantly smaller environmental footprint relative to traditional paper and packaging products sourced from non-annually renewable resources such as trees (or in the case of packaging, petroleum…e.g., styrofoam).
Packaging: Increasingly bagasse is being manufacturered into packaging and food packaging products such as containers, plates, and bowls. These products can be certified as 100% compostable under ASTM standard D-6868. Bagasse food packaging products are typically heat resistant up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Products are also “soak proof”, but hot items will cause moisture/precipitation to form at the bottom. You’ll notice that many of the products offered by our partner World Centric are made from Bagasse. Bagasse food containers have become particularly popular as more than 100 cities and counties have moved to ban Styrofoam in the US. Bagasse containers in these cities are being used as alternatives to traditional plastic and styrofoam to go containers and disposable food service ware. Bagasse food packaging products typically biodegrade in 1-3 months in a commercial composting facility and 2-4 months in a home composting environment.