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