To determine the sustainability, and the level of environmental-friendliness of each of these brands of cutlery, plates and cups, we first used the PIXE technology to determine the inorganic contents of the main cutlery pieces and compare this content to that which is found in potatoes or corn, depending on what the brand claimed to use for manufacturing. We also used corn and potato starch to make our own homemade plastics, which we used for further comparison. As an additional side study, we left samples of some of the plastics outside, to determine how much each would degrade under sustained UV/weather exposure.
The companies whose compostable or biodegradable cutleries that we looked at were, World Centric, Greenwave, TarerWare, Green Paper Products, Eco Products, Susty Party and Greenware. World Centric, Green Wave, Green Paper Products all make their plastics from PLA, corn starch, while Taterware make their from potato starch. The Eco Products company had two variations on the cutlery, one white and one cream, the cream is made from “Plant Starch” while the white is “Plant Ware”. The difference is not specified. For comparison, we added a plastic spoon made from recycled materials, and a completely normal plastic spoon from Great Value.
In addition to this we looked at paper plates from World Centric, Eco Products, Green Paper Products and Susty Party. Finally we also compared a set of clear plastic cups from World Centric and GreenWave (who manufacture through a company called Fabir-Kal). In addition to the direct comparisons of the contents of the materials we also wanted to determine the energy used to manufacture, transport and dispose of the single-use cutleries to an industrial kitchen for a year. This estimate we then compared to the energy used to wash and maintain an industrial kitchen with common, re-usable cutlery.
Jacobsen, Caroline and Poscillico, Lauren, "Contents and Sustainability of ‘Environmentally Friendly’ Cutleries, Paper Plates, and Plastic Cups" (2012). Other Student Research in Physics, Astronomy, and Geophysics. 1.
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.