Disposable utensils have become so common in our lives. You will often find disposable utensils at quick service restaurants, weddings, festivals, picnics by the park, etc.
Single-use plastic cutlery offers convenience and is, most times, very cheap. As convenient as disposable utensils may be, the unfortunate bit is that they are not always eco-friendly.
Sadly, the habit of single-use utensils has become a culture so embedded in our daily lives that we fail to realize its impact on the environment.
What are the effects of single-use plastic cutlery? Is there a solution to it? Let’s see if eco-friendly disposable utensils are the answer.
What are eco-friendly disposable utensils?
Ecofriendly disposable utensils are utensils made of less harmful materials other than plastic. The goal of eco-friendly disposable cutlery is to provide the convenience of disposable utensils while preserving the environment.
Eco-friendly utensils are made from natural materials such as sustainably harvested wood, bamboo, corn starch, birchwood, etc.
Eco-friendly utensils may be single-use (compostable or recyclable) or reusable.
What are disposable utensils made of?
Traditionally, most disposable utensils are made of plastic or styrofoam. Plastic cutlery is often made from either polystyrene or polypropylene.
Since plastic cutlery is readily available and cheap, it has gained massive popularity over the years. Researchers estimate that in the U.S alone, over 40 billion plastic utensils are thrown away every year.
What are the problems with disposable plastic utensils
While plastic utensils are affordable and readily available, they pose a significant threat to human health and the environment.
Firstly, a plastic utensil has a useful life of about 10 or 15 mins, and then boom, its impact lasts hundreds of years. Plastic is not biodegradable. It takes more than 400 years to completely break down, which means that most of the plastic that has ever been manufactured still exists in some form.
The disposable utensils will mostly end in landfills as plastic waste, where they release harmful greenhouse gases that cause air pollution and result in climate change.
While plastics do not biodegrade, they break down into small fragments called microplastics that find their way into the air, water, and even the foods we eat. Research shows that the average American consumes at least 5 grams of plastic per week and 74,000 microplastics annually.
Moreover, disposables pose a considerable threat to marine life. In the oceans, aquatic animals confuse plastic for food. When ingested, the plastics end up killing the animals.
Disposable plastic utensils also contain toxic chemicals, BPA, and chlorine, which harm your health.
Finally, plastic cutlery is rarely recycled, even when you put it in the recycling bin. Why? It’s too light, small, and of course, contaminated. Even when placed in the recycling bin, it will most likely end up in landfills.
What about bio-plastic utensils?
Many eco-friendly alternatives to plastic cutlery have been developed, including bio-plastic utensils.
Bio-plastic utensils are often marketed as biodegradable or compostable. But are they really good for the environment?
What manufacturers don’t tell us is that bioplastics can only be broken down in an industrial composting facility. A regular person cannot compost biodegradable plastics at home. The industrial composting facility uses very high temperatures, which may not be available in a home compost bin.
Also, the quality of the bio-plastic compost is not very good. It is sticky, resiny, and not as rich and nutritious as regular compost from organic materials.
If you choose biodegradable plastic utensils, at least ensure you will dispose of them well where they can be composted; otherwise, they will end up in landfills and take years to decompose, just like any other plastic.
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What is the most eco-friendly disposable cutlery?
1. Ecovita’s 100% Compostable Tableware
Ecovita’s eco cutlery combo set and plates are a must-have if you are looking for an eco-friendly alternative to plastic utensils for your events or restaurants.
The eco cutlery combo set is a 380-piece set containing 140 disposable eco-friendly forks, 120 spoons, and 120 knives, all 100% compostable. The sets are completely plastic-free as the utensils are made from sustainable plant resources and come with recyclable packaging.
Ecovita also provides a recyclable tray for easy storage and display at events or parties. They guarantee you a full refund if you are unhappy with their products.
The company gives back by donating 5% of its profits towards programs that positively impact people and the environment.
Eco-friendly plant-based materials- the cutlery is made with Non-GMO corn, grown and harvested ethically in the USA.
They are made in an FDA-approved facility. They are safe and contain no toxic chemicals, BPA, or chlorine.
Unlike small disposable utensils, Ecovita makes extra long utensils that are large enough to provide a firm grip when cutting and scooping tough foods.
The utensils are made with a premium matte finish that makes them hot food friendly and dishwasher safe as they have a high heat resistance of up to 212 F.
2. PacknWood Green Products
PacknWood is a one-stop shop for all your utensils needs as a business owner. Whether you run a coffee shop, bakery, or bar, they have everything for every business. They also have a collection of special events supplies for any event you may be hosting.
Whether you are looking for disposable wooden cutlery, individually wrapped cutlery, or compostable cutlery, you will find them all at PacknWood. From chopsticks, coffee stirrers, straws, napkins, and packaging cardboard, everything you need for your business is found in this shop.
Durable and eco-friendly materials such as 100% natural wood, bamboo, corn, sugarcane, cardboard, and recycled PET.
The company is carbon neutral.
3. GreenPaper Products – Environmentally friendly and Compostable
Green paper products is a small business that makes biodegradable and compostable cutlery and tableware. Their products offer an unmatched high-quality feel and appearance. The prices are also very pocket friendly.
Green paper products got you if you are looking for forks, spoons, knives, and flatware for your business, events, or business functions of any size.
They have elegantly durable utensils ethically manufactured by Worldcentric. The biodegradable products are made from crystallized PLA resin obtained from a renewable resource. The products have no added PFAs and are gluten-free.
Plastic free compostable cutlery
BPI certified compostable
high heat resistance temperatures ranging from 180-190 degrees F hence microwave safe
non-porous (impermeable) and non-toxic products
4. Treeatery Compostable Cutlery
Looking to impress your guests with eco-friendly alternatives? Get the Treeatery compostable cutlery sets. The sets come with a recyclable, convenient tray that allows you to serve the compostable flatware and cutlery for all your special events, picnics, weddings, parties, etc.
Enjoy your food with these non-toxic, BPA-free, and responsibly sourced products.
To ensure environmental friendliness, the company plants a tree for every box you buy. They have partnered with an organization called Onetreeplanted to support reforestation programs across the U.S and Canada.
You get a 100% money-back guarantee if their products do not meet your expectations.
Natural plant-based (corn starch) CPLA materials
Plastic-free products and packaging
High heat resistance and dishwasher-safe products
BPI compostable (Note: only commercially compostable, so be sure to dispose of well)
5. Woodable Disposable Wooden Cutlery
Woodable makes the best wooden utensils that perform better than plastic utensils and are safe for the environment.
The wooden utensils are manufactured from Chilean pine and poplar from sustainably managed forests. And to promote reforestation, the company plants four trees for every three harvests.
Their products contain no added additives or coatings. They are incredibly smooth and durable.
Though we found Woodable products incredible, a few reviews mentioned that the products have some woody taste, which we hope the company is working towards.
100% biodegradable and backyard compostable utensils
FSC and Rainforest Alliance certified for responsible forestry.
6. Ibambo Eco-friendly, biodegradable and compostable cutlery
Ibambo strives to make high-quality, affordable bamboo products with minimal negative environmental impact.
Bamboo is a renewable resource and more sustainable than trees as it matures quickly. Ibambo uses ethically sourced bamboo to make eco-friendly, strong, and durable bamboo cutlery and flatware.
Their bamboo straws are a perfect alternative to metallic and plastic straws. They are organically sourced, BPA free and contain no dyes. They are also easy to wash, so you can endlessly reuse them.
Their compostable knives, unlike plastic knives, are strong enough to cut through tough foods easily.
Biodegradable and backyard compostable
plastic-free packaging using recyclable cardboard and natural hemp ties.
7. Ecotensil Eco-friendly Disposable Paperboard Cutlery
Ecotensil makes innovative disposable paperboard cutlery using moisture-resistant and sturdy paperboard. The products are incredibly sustainable, using up to 85% less energy and material than plastic or wooden cutlery.
Their products are available in 3 lines, food service, food sampling, and use on packaging.
Ecotensil paper cutlery does not give food a woody taste as wooden spoons and forks do.
Recyclable and compostable cutlery
FSC and PEFC certified
What to look for when shopping for eco-friendly disposable utensils
Here are a few things to look out for when shopping around for eco-friendly utensils;
The material of a product takes up the most considerable portion of a product’s impact. Anything not plastic is a green flag but look out for possible greenwashing.
Natural materials such as bamboo and other wood products, stainless steel, and recycled materials are good to consider.
We recommend going for biodegradable and home compostable materials. While biodegradable plastics (PLA and CPLA)are compostable, they require an industrial composting facility; otherwise, they will behave like ordinary plastics when improperly disposed of. Only choose them if there is a composting facility near you.
For wooden utensils, ensure the wood is sustainably sourced with FSC certification.
The event you are hosting or business greatly determines what kind of utensils you choose. Is it a business function, wedding, or picnic? Will you be serving hot or cold foods?
Depending on the type of event or business, choose the utensils that meet your needs.
Stainless steel is best when it comes to eco-friendly cutlery for travel.
Any brand that supports sustainability should have its disposable utensils packaged in eco-friendly packaging.
Look out for brands that use thoughtful packaging. Unless necessary, avoid individually wrapped cutlery to reduce the amount of waste created.
Look out for conditions under which the company manufactures its cutlery. Are employees paid a minimum wage? Are they overworked?
Buy from companies that go the extra mile to support the environment and communities. Some green flags to look at include; a company that gives back, plants trees, and has the proper certifications.
By supporting such companies, we can starve those that care less about our environment.
Simple eco-friendly alternatives to disposable cutlery
Do you have a drawer full of plastic cutlery just because you feel guilty about throwing them away? Free yourself from the guilt by trying out these simple tips;
If you are ordering in, at home, or in the office, ask your provider not to deliver with plastic cutlery or any cutlery at all. I bet you already have cutlery at home or in the office. Alternatively, when at home, try out healthy recipes instead of ordering in.
Carry your own cutlery. I know, I know, so cringe, but just as we are now carrying our water bottles and coffee cups, this is possible too. This small habit can save tons of plastic waste from landfills.
If your favorite food joint uses disposable plastic utensils, let them know that, as a customer, you would prefer more sustainable choices. They will always respond to customer feedback.
When hosting events, opt for reusable utensils and let your guests know you are having a zero-waste event. If you don’t have enough table settings, loan some from a friend.
Tip: For easier cleaning, fill a tub with soapy water and let your guests put the used utensils there.
For huge events like weddings or parties, you can hire a company that provides reusable utensils, delivers them, and then picks them up after the event.
Recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable utensils are good alternatives to plastic utensils, but they create a notion that we are actually doing something for the environment. They make us feel comfortable living in a disposable economy, allowing us to have it both ways.
But this shouldn’t be the case. The first goal of eco-friendly living should be creating less waste. So whenever possible, it is best to avoid disposable utensils and go for reusables.
What tips are you using to avoid disposable utensils? Let us know in the comments!