When it comes to serveware and food packaging products, the options used to be limited to plastic products. But thanks to technology, we have more options as far as food packaging and serve ware go. Sustainable options such as biodegradable and compostable disposable serve ware are starting to become the norm.
If you’re the type who loves making compost at home, you are probably wondering which types of disposable serveware are the easiest to compost. The thing with compostable disposables is that compostability will vary from product to product. Some of these products could break down within a few short weeks, others could take months or even years.
Now the question is, what’s so important about the compostability of a product? The length of time it takes for a compostable disposable product to break down completely affects its eco-friendliness. A product that takes too long to biodegrade will take up more space much longer. This could be a problem if your compost pile is running out of space. If a product takes too long to break down then you cannot keep adding the same item in your compost pile otherwise, it would take forever and a day before the materials break down.
Take PLA plastics or bio-plastics for example. Although PLA dinnerware products are made from renewable materials and are certified compostable, these have to be processed in a commercial system. Why? PLA products have to reach a certain temperature to start the breakdown process. If you are composting these at home, it will be hard to reach the temperature requirement of PLA products.
In addition, the success and time it takes to break down PLA products will depend on how efficient your compost system is. The heat that the compost pile generates, how often you turn your compost pile and the time it takes for the other materials to biodegrade are some of the things that come into play when it comes to breaking down PLA products in an at-home compost pile.
To know which compostable disposables are the fastest to break down, you have to learn about the different raw materials that these products are made of. In this guide, let’s take a look at compostable disposables that are easiest and the hardest to compost:
Leaf and Bagasse Serveware
Serveware that are made from sugarcane and fallen leaves are the easiest to compost. That’s because these products are made from porous and fibrous materials. Leaf and bagasse serveware could be composted at home or put in a worm farm and they will biodegrade just like cardboard or paper materials.
Generally, dinnerware made from bagasse will break down in 60 to 90 days. Plates and cups made from palm leaves, on the other hand, will break down within 42 to 56 days. But again, the time it takes for these products to break down will depend on your composting system.
Biodegradable Garbage Bags
Biodegradable garbage bags aren’t always the most eco-friendly option out there but these products are a much better option than plastic garbage bags. Most trash bags made from bioplastic will biodegrade in three to six months.
Biodegradable plastics are no different from traditional plastics save for the added compounds that start the breakdown process. The added compounds cause the bioplastic to disintegrate when exposed to oxygen or light. Once the bioplastic has disintegrated, it turns into sludge. There are bioplastics made from plant-based materials such as cornstarch, which are kinder to the environment compared to normal biodegradable plastics.
Paper Plates and Cups
Paper material takes about 5 years to biodegrade. However, paper plates or cups stained with grease cannot be recycled. If greasy paper plates are mixed with other recyclable materials, they could upset the recycling process. Usually, paper plates that are aerated frequently in compost piles biodegrade much faster. That said, the thickness of the material could affect the time it takes for the product to biodegrade completely. Paper plates made with a thicker material will take longer to degrade. Shredding the paper plates may help shorten their decomposition rate.
PLA-Coated Paper Serveware
It doesn’t take much for paper products to biodegrade unless the products are lined with a thin coating of plastic. PLA coated paper plates, bowls, and cups are hard to compost because the organisms that break down paper cannot go through the plastic coating. Some plastic coating could be separated from the paper during the recycling process; some facilities filter the films out. Either way, removing the plastic film is an extra step in the recycling process, one that’s quite expensive. This is the reason why most plastic lined paper products are incinerated rather than landfilled, which produce noxious gasses that pollute the air.
Disposable Wood Plates and Cutlery
As the name implies, the serveware is made from wood, usually recycled wood or sustainable wood. These products take as little as 40 to 60 days to biodegrade. Plates and cutlery made from a dense type of wood will take longer to biodegrade compared to plates and cutlery made from thin, porous, or light wood materials. Some disposable wood plates are backyard compostable, which means these products are much easier to compost at home.
Some plates, cups, and deli containers are made from “biodegradable” plastic or PLA. These are quite tricky to compost because the plastic material has to reach a certain level of temperature before it degrades. It’s worth noting that most at-home composts do not achieve the right temperature to biodegrade PLA products.
PLA plates should be processed in a commercial compost facility as opposed to being composted at home. This goes especially for people with only a small compost pile, the plates will take a lot of room and it will take more time before they break down completely. Products made from plant-derived plastics will take 3 to 6 months to biodegrade. PLA cutlery, on the other hand, will take a longer time to biodegrade because of the thickness of the material.
If you are concerned about the eco-friendliness of a product, opt for plates that are made from sustainable and compostable raw materials. This way, you could simply add the plates in your at-home compost pile instead of turning them over to a compost facility. In addition, compostable plates are made from sustainable materials, which mean you are not contributing to the depletion of the world’s natural resources. Our range of disposable wood plates is made from renewable sources. These plates are 100% bleach free, dye free, pesticide free with no plastic or wax coating.