Eco friendly catering & packaging supplies, Eco-lifestyle products & Natural Home-wares

Which biodegradable catering ware products are easiest to compost at home?

Sugarcane biodegradable catering ware

Even though all of the biodegradable catering ware products we stock are certified biodegradable, and most are also certified compostable, these ratings are based on composting in a commercial facility. If your aim is to compost them at home, compostability is more varied. In this blog we aim to explain which are easiest to home compost, which are hardest, and why.

Even though some products such as PLA are certified compostable and easily compostable in a commercial system, they are much harder to compost at home because it is hard to reach the temperature requirements needed to start the composting process.  If you are composting at home, the success and speed of composting will depend on how 'good' your compost system is (how much heat you generate, how often you turn it etc). Here is a list of the products that are the easiest to home compost, ordered from 1 (easiest to compost) to 6 (hardest but still possible if you are happy to wait an undetermined length of time.)

1. sugarcane or biocane plates, cups, bowls, and lunchboxes, and palm leaf plates and bowls are some of our most popular biodegradable catering ware products. These are really fibrous and porous and can be easily composted or put in a worm farm. They compost a lot like paper and cardboard does.
2. Biodegradable rubbish bags.  They break down easily - you'll see them falling apart within a few weeks.
3. PLA coated paper coffee cups and soup cups. They have just a tiny thin layer of PLA coating them (this makes them waterproof - it replaces the plastic coating on conventional cups).  Since the main component is paper, they are not too difficult to compost, once the microorganisms get through the thin PLA coating.
4. Wooden catering ware and cutlery. They are a bit like sticks in the compost - they take a while simply because they are quite dense, but will definitely break down in the compost eventually.
5. PLA cold drink cups and PLA deli containers. PLA clear cups and containers are quite a tricky product to home compost. In a commercial compost system, they compost very quickly. In a home system, they tend to shrink, shred, and hang round for a long time - not many home compost systems reach the heat required to break them down. They ARE made from plant  plastic - so eventually they will turn back into organic materials, but in the meantime they are not pretty hanging around in your compost. Personally, we would choose sugarcane or PLA coated paper cups over clear PLA ones if we wanted to compost the remains, and we would wash and re-use the clear deli containers as often as possible, then dispose into landfill.

6. PLA and PSM cutlery is also quite difficult to home compost, mainly due to it's density. Like anything dense in the compost (sticks for example), it takes ages for bio-organisms to get through it, and in addition - just like the clear PLA cups and containers - most home compost doesn't reach the temperatures required to really start the composting process. As with the clear PLA - we usually wash and reuse our PLA and PSM cutlery, and only when it is no longer usable, either toss it into the compost or into landfill.

For some great pictures showing the gradual composting of various of our biodegradable catering ware items, you can download this pdf: or to see the whole trial results from the trial run by the Flinders University in SA, download this PDF: waste flinders biodegradable waste report

By Lucinda Flynn of Going Green Solutions

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