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Reporting and commentary from OnEarth editors and correspondents
Why waste at all? With a little planning ahead, you can bring your own mug or thermos to the cafe to be filled, and maybe even get a discount! Most places will offer to rinse out the container beforehand in case you're worried about not being able to clean it between uses. Local cafes are more likely to have reusable mugs as long as you specify that you want it 'for here.'
What is this about virgin hardwood? Most paper is made from softwood trees (as well as a small amount of Eucalyptus) grown specifically for the purpose and waste from lumber logging and production.
I've turned a corner on my thinking about plant based plastics. I had many of the same reservations as you, but I've come to believe that, in situations where reusables are not feasible or not permitted by health code, bioplastics (and other compostable containers) are the best option. 1) Our municipal compost collection does not take plant plastics, but we were able to find a private contractor who would. It turns out the high heat commercial composting facilities just have bigger piles... really big piles, but nature still does the work. So completing the cycle on bioplastic is possible at many restaurants, institutions, public events etc. One shouldn't assume it's not happening just because the city doesn't take care of it. 2) That 60% less environmental footprint impact is no joke. It's meaningful. 3) While corn and, worse, GMO corn byproducts are used for most bioplastics now, if production hits critical mass, other more sustainable plants,like switch grass, could be grown for this express use. But we have to invest in the technology to make that happen. 4)Where you can compost your compostable plastic ware you can also compost the food scraps that are on it. High heat compost facilities can handle all of it even meat and bones. This makes for a very effective way to divert a big chunk of your waste from the landfill. And that's what it's all about. 5) Lastly bioplastics are very recyclable in their own segrgated lots-- with limited energy expended and minimal loss of strength relative to other plastics. Stonyfield farms uses bioplastics for some of their yogurt cups and actively recycles the material on site. There are no perfect answers for every situation. Please don't assume green washing or anything other than the best intentions among those of us working to improve environmental impact. We are all on a journey. Have patience.
love this response - gives me hope!