Starre Vartan

Compostable Packaging Test: Bambu Plates Breakdown

by , 11/11/10

After 3 1/2 months, the bamboo plate is rotting pretty well; the mold is breaking down the right side, while the left side is peeling apart and breaking off into the compost heap.

The Bambu plate, while not breaking down as fast as the Whole Foods container, is on its way to turning into soil. While there are some environmental issues associated with bamboo crops, such as artificially accelerated growing techniques and the supplanting of old growth forests, Bambu says their plates are made from 100% organic bamboo, which generally comes from well-managed bamboo stands. Since it’s thicker and more rigid than the Whole Foods container, and made from bamboo peeled directly from the stalk, it makes sense that it would take longer to degrade.

However the issue raised about still stands: why do compostables matter if most of them won’t be composted? There are two main reasons. The first is litter; when plastics make their way into the environment, they don’t ever really break down into natural constituents; they just become smaller and smaller pieces of plastic. These bits often make their way into waterways where animals ingest (or try to ingest) them, blocking their digestive track and killing them quickly. They may also absorb the chemicals the plastic is made from, killing them slowly. When we eat fish that has been snacking on plastic pieces, we end up with those toxins in our bodies too.

Then there’s leaching. When compostable packages eventually (eventually!) break down in a landfill, they are reduced to natural constituents like cellulose or bamboo fiber. When plastic is stuck in a landfill, it will, over time, leach the toxic chemicals used to make the container, which can eventually work its way into local water tables. Yep, that means that we (or the animals we eat) end up drinking that water.

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6 Comments

  1. jill swanson November 14, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Love the Bambu and the Verterra. I work for a caterer and we’ve used both. The Bambu is a more sturdy (like a solid wood plate) and the veterra is much more unique (every plate looks a different). If you need larger quantities for big parties, these guys have them both in bulk: http://www.joannehudson.com/disposable-plates-green-dinnerware.html

  2. geva November 14, 2010 at 6:45 am

    great break down Starre… great to bring all the points to the table

  3. stephanie gale November 13, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Good to know! Personally, if I have to use disposables, I like VerTerra’s version; plates made from fallen leaves. Supposedly breaking down in about 2 weeks, and also available at Whole Foods stores and other natural foods marekts. (I don’t have a compost pile, but maybe that could be your next test??) http://www.verterra.com/dinnerware.php

  4. Diane Pham Diane Pham November 11, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    love these, i’m going to try them out at the next dinner party i have.

  5. kestrel November 11, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    love to see the real “break down” on this issue!

  6. Yuka Yoneda Yuka Yoneda November 11, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    I always wanted to buy these but was never sure if they’d really break down. Now I know. Thanks Starre!

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