By Nate Furler
The deli at Oneota Community Co-op is unique in many ways. One way is that we have reusable plates, bowls, cups and silverware for diners who decide to eat in our deli seating area. This was a conscious choice to reduce the amount of waste going out of our facility. The deli also composts nearly all of the plant waste that we create on a daily basis, greatly reducing our trash removal. This compost is available to members of the community and is used for things ranging from general compost to animal feed.
We are continually in search of better products with more recyclability or compostability. Our bioplastic utensils are one innovation that we are able to bring to you. Bioplastics are derived from renewable raw materials such as starch derived from corn, potato, and tapioca. They can also be made from cellulose (wood), soy protein, and lactic acid. These materials are not hazardous in production and decompose into basic components such as carbon dioxide, water and biomass.
We cannot, however, discount that the materials are most often grown conventionally with the use of petro fuels in tractors and other equipment. Though it is not a perfect solution, it is a few steps in a better direction. At this time, corn starch is the main raw ingredient used in the creation of bioplastic resins. Mater-Bi and PolyActide (PLA) are currently the two main resins used in the production of compostable and biodegradable plastics. These resins are certified for compostability under standards set by international organizations such as the American Society for Testing and Materials and the European Standardization Committee
The utensils that we order are capable of withstanding up to 220 degrees Fahrenheit and are fully compostable in both a home compost pile or commercial compost facility. The rate at which the items biodegrade varies with the composition and thickness of the materials, as well as the conditions to which they are subjected.
Commercial composting facilities typically grind the materials before adding them to compost piles. They also turn the piles routinely and the compost reaches temperatures higher than your typical home compost pile. This speeds the degradation process, making it the preferred method for composting bioplastics.
In general, the rate of biodegration for our bioplastic utensils is 12 to 24 months in a home compost pile, or 6 to18 months in a commercial facility. For more information on bioplastics and to order your own compostable items, consult www.worldcentric.org.
As is typical with renewable and compostable items, the up-front cost to the pocketbook is greater. This is why the Co-op charges for the use of our to-go silverware and various other containers that are used in the deli and bulk areas. We provide them as an option for our customers, but we strongly encourage the use of our ceramic plates, bowls, and cups, metal silverware, and stainless steel glasses in the deli.
We also challenge you to bring your own clean, reusable containers for the items that you purchase in our bulk department here at the Co-op