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Plant-Based Utensils Gaining Acceptance in Food Service Settings

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NATIONAL REPORT—For the breakfast area, employee break rooms, meetings, weddings, and instances when “to go” type utensils are needed, biodegradable, compostable spoons, forks and knives should be an option. Many vendors now sell these types of utensils. They are an environmentally favorable alternative to petroleum-based plastics because they are made from renewable resources such as corn, rice, sugarcane, and potatoes. Billions of plastic utensils are sent to landfills every year—destined to remain unchanged for hundreds or even a thousand years. Utensils made from plant-based products, however, can biodegrade in less than 100 days under the right conditions—in a commercial compost facility, for example. Disintegration will occur more quickly if the utensils are broken into smaller pieces.

When these types of utensils were first introduced, durability, flexibility and being able to hold up under high temperatures were issues. Today, however, many brands can withstand temperatures up to 220 degrees and remain strong for years as long as they are kept dry. “They are amazingly durable,” says Jan Goldstein, a customer service representative for VEGWARE US Inc., Danielson, Conn. “They have come a long way. They hold up better than plastic, and, unlike plastic, are flexible.”

“Green” utensils typically will cost a little more or the same as their plastic counterparts. Like those that are made from plastic, they are mostly manufactured overseas in Asia—in places such as China, Malaysia and Thailand. Some vendors offer proof of biodegradability/compostability through organizations or certifications such as the Biodegradable Products Institute, US Composting Council, ISO 14855 standard, ASTM D6400-99, and the Europe-based DIN CERTCO and EN13432.

Sources for Eco-friendly Utensils

The following is a list of vendors to consider when shopping for compostable utensils:

Nature Friendly Products—This company’s spoons, forks, knives, sample spoons, soup spoons, and sporks are made from proprietary biodegradable resin.

Biocorp—Biocorp.’s cutlery consists of a molded cellulose fiber/limestone product that does not contain any plastic resin, and biodegrades in active compost systems.

VEGWARE US Inc.—This company’s cutlery is made from Plastarch (PSM), a thermoplastic resin made from natural starch. The utensils are fully biodegradable and comply with the ISO 14855 standard, achieving 34.2 percent and 65.6 percent biodegradation after 45 and 93 days respectively.

ultra green—This company’s premium utensils are made from corn starch. They are 100 percent biodegradable and compostable.

BE a GREEN company—BioGrade biodegradable forks, spoons and knives are made from a combination of cellulose and limestone. The utensils will biodegrade in approximately 90 to 120 days and are certified compostable according to DIN Certco test.

Additional Companies to Check Out

Nat-Ur, Inc.—Nat-UR products are made from Cereplast Compostables resins. Nat-UR products replace nearly 100 percent of the petroleum dependant additives used in traditional plastics with bio-based materials such as corn, wheat, tapioca and potato starches.

LetsGoGreen, Inc.—The company’s medium weight biodegradable knves, forks and spoons are made from plant starch. These biodegradable utensils break down under commercial composting conditions in about 95 days.

Stalk Market, Inc.—Stalk Market’s Jaya cutlery is made from natural plant starch and is available in a natural beige color.

Excellent Packaging & Supply—This company’s cutlery is made from SpudWare, a Plastarch material whose primary source ingredient is potatoes.

Eco Products—Eco Products’ utensils are made from a natural biopolymer called Ingeo.

Also be sure to visit Return2Green and Bio Green Products Co.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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