Are “Compostable” Plastics Compostable?

Updated: Oct 16



The Problem

With increasing awareness of surrounding issues like climate change and pollution, one might consider the negative impacts of the plastic cups used every day. Understandably, someone might succumb to the occasional, innocent bubble tea temptation (I know I would!), but is the cup itself as innocent?


Unfortunately, the answer is no. The world produces and discards billions of disposable cups per year. In fact, consumption in the US alone has led to the discardation of 50 billion coffee cups annually. Conventional plastic cups, which are usually made from plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), take around 1000 years to degrade on their own fully. Conventional paper cups aren’t off the hook either as their plastic lining, which keeps liquids from saturating the paper part, cannot be separated by most recycling facilities. Pairing these staggering statistics with the negative environmental impacts—such as contributions to global warming, pollution, and more—fortunately led to a spike in awareness regarding sustainability and environmental issues. As a result, society eventually shifted away from oil-based polymers, instead gravitating toward polymers derived from renewable resources. Was this finally the all-encompassing solution we were looking for? Well… not exactly.


PLAs: The Ugly Truth

When someone tells you about “compostable” plastics, they probably refer to polylactide (PLA), a versatile, renewable-resource-derived polymer that makes up containers and packaging for food and various consumer goods. Supporters often emphasize that PLA plastics, are made from renewable resources, as opposed to conventional plastic packaging, which uses an estimated 200 000 barrels of oil a day in the US. Despite its use under the radar for years prior to its popularity, PLAs received the largest boost when Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailed, announced that they would sell produce in PLA containers. That being said, most popular doesn’t necessarily equate to the best option.

Sure, PLAs eventually decompose into carbon dioxide and water—but is “eventually” good enough? At the mention of typical compost, you might imagine the food scraps and products that may break down on their on in your backyard. That simply isn’t the case for PLA plastics, which only degrade in a “controlled composting environment,” and even then, they take an additional 3-6 months to fully break down. Therefore, PLAs really aren’t your typical weekly compost item… though is that really a problem if technology exists to break them down? Unfortunately, yes; very few composting facilities actually take “compostable” plastics, and when PLAs are sent to compostable facilities that don’t process them, they end up in the landfill. In the rare case that they make it to a PLA-friendly composting facility, PLAs often pose an additional nuisance as they contaminate other plastics that undergoing separate recycling processes. Shifting to a local lens, the City of Vancouver doesn’t even accept PLAs due to lack of volume; PLAs are popular, but they aren’t common enough for Vancouver’s composting facilities to invest in PLA composting processes.


Our Solution

At Teaspoons & Co., we proudly introduce the Bio Cup, a 100% compostable cup that forgoes use of lids through a unique butterfly-fold design. Available in three sizes (8oz, 12oz,16oz, and 24 oz), the bio cup is the first 100% recyclable cup in Canada. Seeing that the lining contains no plastic, feel free to discard this cup into the paper recycling bin after use—that’s right, the same recycling bin you would normally use for paper and cardboard waste!

That being said, the Bio Cup won’t melt like your regular, flimsy paper straws. Rather, the cup was specifically designed to withstand both hot and cold drinks, which makes it the perfect product for any drink, any time of the year. For more information, refer to our article here: https://www.teaspoons.info/sustainability!

Get Involved!

There you go! Environmentally-friendly business practices don’t have to be confusing; at Teaspoons & Co., we strive to prove that with simple changes, like the implementation of the Bio Cup in cafes all across the Lower Mainland. In addition to dispelling false notions about the “sustainable PLAs,” we prove that sustainability is, in fact, accessible and easy for everyone. All one needs is a slight nudge in the right direction. We hope to provide that assistance to both customers and businesses everywhere through our Teaspoons & Co. sustainability initiative.

Over the next few months, we will be transitioning toward full use of Bio Cups at our store.

Check out https://teaspoons.co/collections/sustainable-products to purchase our new Bio Cups and bamboo fiber straws today. And if you are a local business looking to partner with us, don’t hesitate to contact us —we would love to get in touch!


Sustainability is a team effort, and at Teaspoons & Co., we see the potential to make great change within our Vancouver community and beyond. Join us today to revolutionize sustainability and make a lasting difference for future generations!














Sources:

  1. https://medium.com/@levigardner1/those-compostable-cups-you-use-wont-actually-compost-3818369d7749

  2. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/corn-plastic-to-the-rescue-126404720/

  3. https://plastic.education/the-problem-with-disposable-cups/

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6680981/

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-long-does-it-take-garbage-to-decompose-2878033#:~:text=Plastic%20Waste&text=Normally%2C%20plastic%20items%20can%20take,years%20to%20decompose%20in%20landfills.

ABOUT US

Teaspoons was created with the desire to welcome excitement back into people’s lives and was borne through innovation that was needed during a time of crisis. Teaspoons has delivered happiness to customers by giving them the ability to indulge in one of life’s guilty pleasures ... Boba!

MAILING LIST