Eco-Friendly Gifts Blog: Is Biodegradable Cutlery Really Eco-Friendly?
Are you looking for an alternative to single plastic cutlery? If so, you've found the right place.
Our biodegradable cutlery sets are completely plastic free, and can be completely composted using LFHP Zero.
If you've already mind up that you love the idea of plastic free cutlery, further into the blog we will discuss our Eco-Friendly Picnic Set.
Our biodegradable cutlery sets use a plant based alternative to traditional plastic - bioplastic. Made from sustainable, renewable resources, our bioplastic cutlery sets are a fantastic eco friendly alternative to plastic cutlery.
The particular bioplastic our cutlery sets are made from is PLA, a bioplastic derived from cornstarch. As a material, PLA has all the qualities that a traditional plastic cutlery sets have, but without the plastic.
Our biodegradable cutlery sets can be used for hot and cold drinks, as well as being the perfect size for beer pong!
As well as being biodegradable, our cutlery sets are also compostable. This means they can be fully composted, with zero waste going to landfill.
Does Our Biodegradable Cutlery Biodegrade Everywhere?
Our biodegradable cutlery sets need special conditions to break down, which can be found in industrial composting (More on that later).
We have partnered up with an industrial composting partner, to guarantee any used items from our Eco-Friendly Picnic Set and other gifts can be fully composted.
Simply send your used cutlery sets back to us using our free post back scheme, LFHP Zero, and we promise they will be fully composted. Zero waste, zero problems.
If biodegradable cutlery sets don't have these special conditions, they might not break down at all. The last thing we want is for our cutlery sets to enter landfill, or pollute the natural environment.
All you have to do is send them back to us when you're done with your cutlery, and we promise they will be fully composted.
Eco-Friendly Picnic Set: Cutlery Case Study
As previously mentioned, our Eco-Friendly Picnic Set contains compostable cups, cutlery and plates. Everything needed to have a fantastic day out in the sun, with friends and family.
All of the items in the Eco-Friendly Picnic Set can be composted using LFHP Zero, meaning zero waste will go to landfill.
We build our gifts around the premise of minimizing waste sent to landfill, as well as finding creative alternatives to single use plastic.
Our Eco-Friendly Picnic Set is a great example of how we are achieving both of those goals.
Bioplastic Vs Plastic
Bioplastic has many qualities that make it far more preferable to plastic, in our eyes. We've picked three reasons why we think bioplastic is much better than traditional plastic.
- Normal plastic (we will use PET as an example) is produced from crude oil. As a non renewable resource, crude oil is completely unsustainable, and is draining the earth of its natural resources. With a finite amount of crude oil remaining on earth, it's a bit stupid to base whole economies and livelihoods on it. One day, the stuff will run out - what then? Predictions are not optimistic as to when fossil fuels will completely run out. The bioplastic in our cutlery is made from renewable resources (corn starch). We can quite literally grow more, which makes it infinitely more sustainable than fossil fuel based plastic.
- Producing crude oil based plastic is contributing to the climate crisis. The manufacturing of PET results in huge amounts of CO2 emissions, as well as generating other toxic pollutants. Bioplastic is far closer to being carbon neutral, and is only not fully carbon neutral because of the manufacturing processes required.
- Plastic is hard to process. With so many different types and varieties of plastic in production, it's so difficult to know which bin to put plastic waste in. On top of this, every council and district has its own methods of treating plastic waste. So something that can be recycled in one town, might not be able to get recycled in the next town along. If there is confusion over which bin to put an item of plastic in, there is a possibility it will end up in the wrong bin. Contaminated waste streams result in whole batches of plastic being sent to landfill or incineration.
Home Composting Vs Industrial Composting
One of the most misunderstood concepts about compostable goods: all compostable items are created equal when it comes to disposal.
There is a belief that a compostable set of cutlery can be composted in your home compost bin, when it actually needs to be industrially composted.
There are a few key differences between home composting and industrial composting. Let's take a look.
Home composting is what we think of as the traditional food bin in your back garden. Temperatures aren't that high, and the volume of compost material is relatively small as well. (This is unless you are feeding a small village, or really love eating fruit).
For the most part, food makes up the majority of the biomass in a home compost bin. Any leftover food that you don't want to give to your dog (we are precious about our doggo, so we're not judging at all) goes into the compost bin.
Now, if you've ever seen an advert from a certain high street coffee shop *no names mentioned*, you might have seen the magic 'biodegradable and compostable cutlery set'. They seem to promise an instant solution to plastic pollution generated by single use cutlery.
In reality, special conditions are needed to compost the cutlery sets. These conditions are not available in your food waste bin - you need industrial composting conditions.
In industrial composting, temperatures are much higher than what you would find in your food bin; typically around 58 degrees celsius.
These conditions are able to break down your compostable cutlery sets, and convert them into compost. If you put a compostable cutlery set into your home compost bin, it would take far longer to compost, if at all.
How Can You Tell Which Type Of Composting Is Needed?
There are two main certifications that are used for each type of composting method.
For home composting, look out for the vincotte Ok compost HOME. This logo means that an item will break down in your home compost bin - no special conditions required.
For industrial composting, the logo below indicates that an item will break down when industrial composition takes place. (The logo shows that the material complies to EN13432, the industrial composting standard).
Most bioplastic items will generally require higher temperatures to break down. These temperatures will not be found in your home compost bin, which is why industrial composting is needed.
Biodegradable Vs Compostable
As the fight against plastic pollution continues, we are looking for new solutions to stop single use plastic ending up in our natural environment.
The words 'biodegradable' and 'compostable' are being thrown around a lot, and can be misleading. With high street chains, profit usually comes before being truthful with consumers. Let's have a look at what each term means.
- Biodegradable - If a material is biodegradable, it can be broken down by microorganisms into CO2, water and biomass.
- Compostable - If a material is compostable, it can biodegrade under specific conditions, and be converted into compost.
What does this mean in practice?
- If you want a guarantee that a cutlery set will fully biodegrade with zero waste going to landfill, it needs to be compostable.
- To ensure it composts fully, you need to check which type of composting the cutlery needs.
- If it has the Ok compost HOME logo on it, it will compost in your home compost bin.
- If it has the EN13432 logo on it (usually the case with bioplastic), the cutlery needs to be industrially composted. Use our LFHP Zero to ensure your used cutlery sets are composted fully, using industrial composting.
What Are The Different Types Of Plastic?
Let's clear up another green myth: All biobased plastics are biodegradable.
This is not true.
There are four main categories when it comes to plastic, as shown in the chart below.
To start, let's focus on the two categories of plastic that are biodegradable. They are:
- Biobased biodegradable plastics, such as PLA. This are what our biodegradable and compostable cutlery sets are made from.
- Fossil based biodegradable plastics, such as PBAT.
We love biobased biodegradable bioplastic. They are produced from organic, sustainable materials that can be renewed. They can also be fully composted, with zero waste going to landfill.
The second category of biodegradable plastic is fossil based biodegradable plastic. This means that they are produced from crude oil, which will eventually run out.
The other two categories of plastic are the non biodegradable types.
- Biobased non biodegradable plastic, such as biobased PET.
- Fossil based plastics such as PET (These are what we know of as conventional plastics.)
Arguably, conventional plastics are the worst category of the four. They are produced non sustainably, and cannot biodegrade. Their only hope of not going to landfill is through recycling, which has its own problems anyway.
However, non biodegradable plastics are necessary in some areas, particularly in the medical field. The last thing you want is a piece of plastic, doing a crucial job, biodegrading in someone's body!
Can You Recycle The Biodegradable And Compostable Cutlery?
In short, no.
Attempting to recycle bioplastic is not a good idea. As there is no large scale public infrastructure to process bioplastic yet, the cutlery won't get recycled if you put them in a recycling bin.
When they enter the recycling waste stream, they risk contaminating the surrounding batch of plastic that potentially could have been recycled. Instead, the whole contaminated batch will be sent to landfill.
So when you come to dispose of your cutlery, make sure to send them back to us using LFHP Zero.
We hope so! Throughout this blog we've discussed the differences between plastic cutlery sets and bioplastic cutlery. We've gone over what the benefits of bioplastic cutlery sets are, as well as some of the pitfalls.
Composting and biodegradability are two areas that are not as straightforward as marketers make out, and it's important to understand the difference between the two.
Environmentally Friendly Gifts
When curating our range of environmentally friendly gifts, we consider the overall life cycle assessment, not just the materials used to make the gifts.
Our collection of environmentally friendly gifts is growing all the time, but the key thought of reducing plastic waste sent to landfill will always be at the centre of our efforts.
If you would like to read more about the world of sustainable alternatives to conventional plastic, you can subscribe to our email list at the bottom of the page.