So much for compostable cutlery

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Yes, that’s a pair of “biodegradable” knives in the compost.

Our housewarming was in April this year, and we had a pile of family and friends turn up on the day. In keeping with our eco-renovation, we sought out environmentally-friendly plates and cutlery.

The plates were easy: paper plates that we could confidently compost afterwards, adding valuable “brown matter” to our compost bins. As for the cutlery, we chose disposable items that were clearly marked as “biodegradable”, with specific instructions to compost once used. They looked like normal plastic cutlery, but cost somewhat more.

So great, let’s test that claim! As the party wound down, we asked guests to deposit the paper plates, food scraps and yes — cutlery — directly into the compost bin. A week later, that was covered over with a pile of fresh poultry poo, from our chickens.

Within a week, the compost bin was steaming hot, so was obviously working well, all thanks to the chickens.

Fast forward six months, and it’s time to use the compost when preparing beds for summer. So I crack open the compost bin, as shown in the photo above.

The plates: completely vanished, along with all the food scraps, to make wonderful compost.

The cutlery: as shiny as the day we bought them 😦

Now don’t get me wrong: this didn’t surprise us at all. The claims on the packet of cutlery seemed completely implausible, but what better way to test it.

More seriously, this highlights the problem with a lot of these “green washing” claims. Ok, they’re “biodegradable”. So does that mean they’ll break down in a home compost bin in 6 months, or does it require 5 years in a council tip, when it then breaks down to … what?

So yet another black mark for manufacturers for truth in advertising. (And before you ask, we had too many people to use our own reusable metal cutlery, which clearly would’ve been the best eco option.)

3 thoughts on “So much for compostable cutlery

    Darren (Green Change) said:
    October 7, 2012 at 5:24 am

    That’s an interesting experiment, and unfortunately very typical of the “green” claims made by many products.

    We keep a big box of old metal cutlery in the garage – stuff we had before we got nice cutlery, stuff we bought from op shops, etc. We drag the box out whenever we have a party, so never have to resort to disposable cutlery. Just an idea.

    matt fisher said:
    March 18, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Aspenware wooden cutlery is your best choice – composts down in under 49 days and is a truly green and from sustainable forestry practices in Canada.

    Darren (Green Change) said:
    March 19, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Aspenware may be sustainable, but shipping it to the other side of the world may not be. It would be nice to have a locally-produced alternative.

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