Thinking of going green? With tons of trash making their way to the world’s oceans every day, any time’s the best time to become eco-conscious. Thankfully, you don’t have to make drastic changes in your lifestyle to become earth-friendly. Repurposing old or infrequently used objects in and around the home is a great way to minimize trash that ends up in landfills. If you are into gardening, composting is a terrific way of reducing kitchen wastes in the home. Instead of throwing kitchen scraps and garden wastes in the trash, you can simply add brown and green wastes in your compost pit to make natural fertilizers for the garden.
Something as simple as making small changes in the way you serve food to guests could do wonders for the planet too. Traditional dinnerware is perfect when hosting an intimate event. But if you are entertaining a crowd, disposable wood plates and serveware are your best bet.
Back in the day, the choices for disposable serveware were limited to single-use plastic plates and Styrofoam plates. These days, the choices are much more diverse, some of which are quite earth-friendly. Plates made from recyclable or compostable materials are the best choice if you are entertaining a crowd. These products provide the same convenience that plastics offer sans the guilt. Disposable wood plates, for example, are often made from sustainable wood that breaks down completely. Making these plates require less energy and this adds to the eco-friendliness of the product.
Recyclable products, on the other hand, are made from materials that were repurposed, processed into a different product to extend their life. These products are much more eco-friendly compared to single-use plastic. But between compostable and recyclable products, which is the better choice?
To answer this question, you have to get to know the different processes that come into play when making compostable and recyclable products.
Recyclable or Compostable: Which is Greener?
How Green is Recycling?
Most of us grew up with the saying, “reduce, reuse and recycle.” This means that in order to minimize the amount of waste in landfills, you should reuse items several times and recycle items that are no longer suitable to use.
Using products made from recycled materials is eco-friendly because it eliminates the need to use raw materials for making the said products. Such products could be recycled several times and this increases the end-of-life value of the materials being recycled. But while we know that products made from recycled materials help minimize wastes, processing the raw materials do require more energy, which takes some of recycling’s green factor. In addition, some products are treated chemically, which renders the materials unrecyclable. All these factors should be considered before buying products derived from recycled materials.
How Green is Composting?
Compostable materials break down into water, biomass, and carbon dioxide in 90 days or so. Tiny microbes work together to consume compostable materials, transforming the said materials into compost. Compost is then used to fertilize and improve soil health.
Compostable products, such as disposable wood plates and serveware, are made from materials that break down into the earth without harming the environment and wildlife. The raw materials vary from bamboo to tapioca, bagasse to wood. But one thing that all compostable products have in common is that they are made from renewable sources. That adds to the green factor of these products.
As we previously discussed, compostable materials are not made equally. Backyard compostable products, such as ECO Homeware’s disposable wood plates, are much friendlier to the environment compared to other compostable products because the materials will break down safely using zero energy.
The same thing cannot be said for disposables made from corn. Although the material is compostable, the disposables have to be processed in a commercial composting facility otherwise; the raw material will not biodegrade properly. This minimizes the green factor of corn-based disposables. Some compostable disposables are made from materials that take too long to break down.
What about serveware made from biodegradable plastics? Are they really eco-friendly?
Biodegradable and compostable are often used interchangeably but these terms do not have the same meaning. Biodegradable products take a longer time to break down. Products made from “biodegradable plastic,” for instance, will not break down completely into a landfill. Oxygen is needed to break a biodegradable product down and oxygen levels in landfills are quite low.
Unfortunately, this type of plastic isn’t suitable for recycling and will only decrease the quality of plastic when it is mixed with other recycled material during processing. Products made from biodegradable plastics will require a composting facility to process the material so they’re not as sustainable as you think.
Compostable disposables may have a shorter life compared to serveware made from biodegradable plastics or plastic products but once these products have broken down completely, they no longer require processing that demands high energy. Biodegradable plastics and plastic products, on the other hand, may be reused several times but in the end, they have to be processed again for proper disposal and that takes a lot of energy!