September 9

Biodegradable utensils: Should you consider them?

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What are biodegradable utensils?

biodegradable utensilsBiodegradable utensils are a great alternative if you want your cutlery and straws to break down after use. They’re also more eco-friendly than regular plastics that take centuries to decompose once they’re thrown away. For these reasons, many local restaurants are replacing their plastic cutlery with biodegradable utensils when serving customers.

Biodegradable utensils are made with polylactic acid, which is derived from plant sugars (maltodextrin). These utensils can be composted in commercial composting facilities or backyards, but not in backyard compost piles. This is because organic matter needs to be turned regularly in order for the biodegradation process to work efficiently.

Read: Difference between bioplastic and biodegradable plastic (Link)

 

Why should you consider them?

If you’re looking for an environmentally friendly way to eat away from home or have children in your household who will often throw their disposable plastics in the trash instead of recycling them, then biodegradable utensils should be at the top of your list. Although they cost just a bit more than traditional plastic cutlery, they can quickly pay for themselves if you use them on an everyday basis.

If you’re looking to reduce landfill waste, consider making the switch to non-waxed utensils such as these, as wax is a petroleum byproduct. Traditionally, many of the items used for takeout and delivery came with a layer of paraffin on them to help them slide out of the package more easily. However, after use, the leftovers from the wax make it increasingly hard to dispose of properly in landfills, and even harder to recycle, so the trash keeps piling up!

Utensils and straws made with plant-based sugars (maltodextrin) break down safely and quickly when composted in commercial facilities, but garden compost piles generally aren’t hot enough to create the heat needed for breaking them down. Nevertheless, their ability to be composted safely as opposed to plastics is a huge plus that should be appreciated.

 

Advantages of biodegradable utensils

Cost-effective

If you use biodegradable utensils every day, then the extra cost will quickly be negligible in comparison to how much money you’ll save using them instead of plastic ones.

Environmentally friendly

Biodegradable utensils are made with plant sugars (maltodextrin). These utensils can be composted in commercial composting facilities (and a few even in backyards) and will decompose within a few weeks.

Easily disposable

After you’re finished using the biodegradable cutlery, you can simply put it in your regular waste bin for curbside pick up, or if your utensils are backyard-compostable, in your compost pile; there should be no need to separate utensils from other trash types as both types of plastic are fully biodegradable.

Re-usability

While biodegradable utensils won’t last forever, you can reuse them many times before they start to fall apart. Contrary to disposable plastic cutlery, biodegradable utensils do not release harmful chemicals after prolonged or multiple uses, and once you’re done with them, disposal is much easier than plastic cutlery!

Eco friendly packaging

Many plant sugars (maltodextrin) used for making biodegradable cutlery come from recycled starch, which is made out of recycled agricultural products such as sugar beets, sugarcane, tapioca root, or potato roots. But what is interesting is that manufacturers of biodegradable utensils also take into account the sustainability of the packaging, and often use recycled or sustainable packaging materials. So as these become more popular, so will the packaging that comes along with them!

Read: Eco friendly packaging ideas (Link)

 

Disadvantages of biodegradable utensils

Can’t compost at home

While biodegradable utensils will decompose in commercial composting facilities or backyard gardens, it will take them longer to break down than traditional plastics. Depending on the company and product, it can take between 10 months and 3 years for a set of these items to fully decompose.

Costly shipping

Biodegradable plastics need to be transported around the world as they’re only manufactured in some places such as China and the USA and are not widely popular like other alternatives such as recycled toilet paper or sustainable garbage bags. This means that they’ll have carbon emissions associated with their delivery as well, which is why some companies are looking into using recycled plant sugars (maltodextrin) instead of fossil fuels to power their delivery trucks and facilities wherever possible.

 

Conclusion

Now that you have a better idea of what biodegradable utensils are and how they can benefit you, do you plan on making the switch? If not, why?

If you’re still hesitant about buying biodegradable cutlery every day, consider using them just once a week or month to get yourself into the habit. The small change might become big if many people follow suit!

If you live in the United States, you’ll probably be able to get your hands on eco friendly cutlery online, especially on Amazon where there are tons of deals and you’ll have a wide variety of brands to choose from. If you want to check out biodegradable utensils on Amazon, check out the link below and see for yourself!

 


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