Earth Issues

Food providers choose biodegradable takeout containers

 | March 10, 2010

Ordering takeout has become a normal part of life for many people—whether it’s a cup of coffee that you grab on your way to work or a full meal because there’s no time to cook dinner. When you consider how many single-use food containers people go through each day, you can imagine just how much garbage is created.

When you order takeout in some of the food establishments in Sun Peaks, you’ll be surprised to know that what may look like a Styrofoam cup or plastic utensils are actually not what they seem. Instead, they’re biodegradable to-go containers made of renewable materials.

ecotakeout

Customers at Globe Café and Tapas Bar at Sun Peaks go through about 600 disposable cups, 60 to-go containers and 100 soup containers each month. Fortunately, the restaurant uses 100 per cent biodegradable and compostable cutlery and containers. Made by Green Century Enterprises, these disposable products are made from either sugarcane fibres or plant starch material. They’re not only durable, they also perform better than regular Styrofoam or plastic containers.

“You can use them in the microwave, you can put them in your conventional oven to reheat, you can freeze in them, and eat right out of them,” said Brad Yates, Green Century’s account executive. “You can throw them in your garden and in 90 days, they’ll be fertilizer. Or you can compost them and in 10 days to two weeks they’d be gone.”

Jude Brunt, Globe’s co-owner, said that although Styrofoam containers cost about a quarter of the price of the biodegradable ones, she feels compelled to use environmentally friendly alternatives.

Delta Sun Peaks Resort’s Executive Chef David Tombs agrees. “Of course it costs more but we think it’s worth it,” he said. The Delta uses biodegradable food and coffee containers and wooden cutlery for takeout at all three of their restaurants in Sun Peaks.

Some food establishments like Vertical Juice and 5Forty Café carry coffee brands that are specifically distributed with containers made from renewable materials.

Kicking Horse coffee uses compostable coffee cups and lids made from corn and post consumer recycled content.

Cherry Hill coffee uses two types of coffee cups: one is made from corn and is 100 per cent biodegradable and compostable, and the other is made of 90 per cent recyclable materials and 10 per cent post-consumer recycled fibre content.

Because most of the technology behind these products is fairly recent, it pays to do your research first. James Calder from Cherry Hill said the company encountered quality issues with their first choice in compostable cups. As a result, their customers had to use double cups. “It kind of defeated the purpose,” said Calder, adding that Solo Cup’s brand, which they currently use, is a more durable alternative.

Using disposable takeout containers is one way to cut down on waste. Sure, it can be a great marketing tactic. But first, individuals must commit to real change and not just greenwashing.

The real test is in the face of a mini-crisis.

“One time, we ran out of green containers,” said Brunt, who rushed to Costco because they needed the supplies in a hurry. “I had the Styrofoam food container in my hand . . . but they went back on the shelf,” she said.

As to why she did that? “I think every little thing helps with regards to our footprint on the planet. I have young children, so I’m always thinking about them. It makes me feel better when I sleep at night.”

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