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Sustainability Protective Packaging Q&A

  •   Biodegradable vs compostable vs recyclable serviceware: What are the benefits and drawbacks of each?

    Answered January 13th, 2013 by Expert: Dr. Ronald Cotterman

    The selection of food serviceware often depends on a number of factors such as quality, functionality, cost, availability and, increasingly, the end of life options for that food serviceware.

    In terms of end of life, it is helpful to consider what options are available in the area where you dispose of products. For example, if there are options to reuse or recycle clean and dry serviceware, that offers the advantage that the material can be reclaimed and used again, diminishing the need to use virgin natural resources.

    If recycling is not available, the second option typically considered is composting. To be compostable, the material must be capable of biodegrading aerobically alongside food waste in an industrial compost facility and that facility must be willing to accept serviceware together with incoming organic waste.

    If neither recycling or composting is currently an option, then it is important that the food serviceware be as light as possible without compromising the function (source reduction) and be biostable (will not break down in a landfill). Some organic materials sent to landfills can decompose in the absence of oxygen, producing methane, a greenhouse gas that has 25 times the negative environmental impact compared to carbon dioxide.

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