Production of Biodegradable Service-Ware (BSW)
There are environmental considerations with biodegradable serviceware (as with everything). At the moment, the majority of brand on the market use materials which result as a by-product of manufacturing processes (e.g. bagasse is a by-product of sugarcane), and these processes usually happen abroad. It is useful to be aware that the associated processing, shipping, manufacturing, more shipping and distribution etc is quite intensive for a single use item. With single use juice cups for example, it may be worth considering UK manufactured paper cups which can be recycled, rather than corn starch imported cups just because they are compostable. – Or just use a re-usable ceramic cup.
Disposal – Ratio of BSW to food
Biodegradable plates, cups, cutlery etc can be a bit of a contentious issue. In theory they are a very good idea because they can be thrown in with the composting and there will be no trace that they ever existed within 12 weeks. However, the commercial composting industry is relatively new in the UK with 2 main types of plant; Anaerobic Digestion (AD) or In-Vessel Systems (IVS). Both are in theory capable of accepting biodegradable service products, but a good ratio of food waste to compostable materials is essential to keep the plants running efficiently. Too much dry, tough material will have an effect on the performance of the composting plant. In recent experiences, understandably some commercial composting companies have been reluctant to collect where these products are forming the majority of the customer’s composting waste.
On set this rings true. If you think about the waste arising from your breakfast, lunch and regular coffees, there is usually very little in the way of actual food put into the composting bin because it’s all so tasty. The vast majority is empty cups, plates and containers. However, there are things that you can do to make the system work. If you station the larger 660 litre composting bins at the back of your catering van, the chefs can toss peelings and food prep waste directly into the bins (no bags required). If this can be managed so that bins are half full with real food waste, they can be topped up with the serviceware waste from set and from of house dining area.
BSW going to landfill
If you opt to use biodegradable serviceware (BSW), it important that you make sure all the used products are going to composting. This sounds obvious, but if compostable products end up in landfill, they can actually have adverse environmental effects. Landfill sites are designed to be completely sealed (to stop toxins getting out) and they are very dry places with very low oxygen levels. These are the opposite conditions to those required for natural decomposition (damp and oxygen rich). Therefore when biodegradable products are broken down without oxygen, they release methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
So if (for some strange reason) you are sending any of your production waste to landfill, make sure to keep these products separate.
If you think that you may have trouble with composting on your production but you want to use more sustainable serviceware products, here are some alternative practices;
1) Use re-usable plates/cutlery
2) Use cardboard products and have dedicated cardboard bins
3) Reduce as much as you can, only provide 1 lunchbox per person
4) Replace single use coffee cups with personal thermos mugs (coffee cups make up a huge amount of on-set waste).
5) Have re-usable Tupperware (or similar) for craft service snacks
6) Whatever you do, DO NOT USE POLYSTYRENE! There is no excuse for it, and get your head around this… it will stay intact in the ground or at sea for 1 million years before decomposing.
This is is a syndicated post. Read the original at wearealbert.org