What replaces plastic cutlery in take out and fast food?

(Note: I know we had at least one thread on this months ago, but of course the Dope Search function ain’t helping.)

Anyway, Seattle banned plastic cutlery and straws several months ago. What has replaced plastic in general disposable usage, as in the following scenario: I go to a corner deli, order a pastrami on rye (of course), a 1/4 lb of coleslaw (in NY, sides like this usually come in small plastic cups with lids), and a fountain drink (say lemonade) which usually comes in a coated paper cup with a plastic lid and a plastic straw. Now, in Seattle, what is replacing the plastic components in the above scenario.

Searching on-line brings up lots of high end restaurants and foodies talking past each other about all sorts of replacements, and various tales of why paper replacements are not working too well (as for straws), but no real-world info on what is expected to replace the low-cost plastic utensils. Is compostable (corn starch IIRC) cheap and durable enough for use in lower end and take out usage (deli, bodega, Chinese Take out, ice cream, fast food, and so on)?

There are disposable knives and forks made from bamboo or thin hardwoods such as birch or beech (examples)

I do wonder how these compare in terms of manufacturing resource, to plastic. I’ve heard arguments that paper bags cost more in terms of energy/resources to manufacture than the equivalent plastic bags

They replaced them with potato starch based compostable utensils which are fairly close to the feel and look of plastic utensils.

Still worth it if they reduce the amount of plastic polluting the environment and do not replace it by something worse.

Not necessarily, if the environmental impact of manufacturing them in the first place is bad enough.

Also, even if the potato starch cutlery is compostable, that doesn’t help much if it’s disposed of in the regular trash. I don’t think much composting is going on in conventional landfills.

Not in that the biodegraded products aren’t used as compost, but degradation does take place both there and when people throw stuff away. And many locations separate trash at the garbage-treatment plants.

Seattle is a coastal community, which has economic ties to the health of the Ocean.

The plastic cutlery ban wasn’t due to dumps or composting but due to the problems with plastics within the ocean.

I wish they would ban all disposable plastic in every form. Paper, bamboo, wood etc should be able to handle the job. It bothers me to the core when I see plastic in the ocean.

This crossed my mind this morning as I was cutting up a plastic 6-pack flannister. Back in the 1980s I remember a fuss being made because the plastic rings were killing sea life. So the solution was to cut up the rings. I don’t remember anyone questioning how the plastic got into the oceans to start.

I agree. I can’t think of any good reason why all consumer products are not packaged in fully recyclable materials.

I’m no expert, but the requirements may prevent something from being made of recyclable materials. And as it is, China stopped importing America’s recyclables and there aren’t many other people who want the stuff.

They use this kind of compostable plastic utensils and cupsin the work cafeteria.

They’re made from something called polylactic acid, which is basically a plastic compound made from starch that’s biodegradable, renewable and sustainable.

For all intents and purposes, they’re indistinguishable from regular non-compostable plastic utensils and cups.

That’s the first time I have seen this word. I realize what it is, but how did it get named “flannister”?


It is a Sniglet

If you design them right, landfills not only compost down, they produce biogas that can be harvested. Oddly, one of the tricks is making sure that enough water is added to what’s being buried and the dirt between the cells.

Most of the plastic replacements in Seattle are PLA (polylactic acid) made primarily from corn in Blair, NE. They are more expensive than the non-recyclable disposable “Solo” stuff, but the price will come down as the roll-out continues. As to why states that grow corn aren’t willing to increase their own industry and instead continue to send all of their money to China and the Middle East for chemical and petroleum industry solutions, I cannot answer that. Still seeing styrofoam drinks containers at Sonic and McDonalds in St. Louis quite recently was a jaw dropping experience. Seriously WTF!?!

PLA is quite impressive and has made some huge advances over the past several years in performance. Most interesting to note is that PLA decomposes in a fraction of the time that paper plates do in industrial composting conditions. Currently the biggest problem in Seattle are the foil wrappers, but I think their days are numbered too. People are willing to pay more in Seattle for pushing the technology, it is too bad that tourists are all illiterate.

I was thinking about the results of the Garbage Project from the University of Arizona, where they drilled down into landfills and found things like decades-old newspapers that were still readable or guacamole that looked the same as the fresh stuff.

I don’t know if every place will be doing away with straws or moving to paper/starch straws, but Starbucks switched to strawless lids. The same as you’d get with a hot drink pretty much anywhere.

As an aside, PLA is also the material most commonly used for 3D printing. Though they charge about ten times as much for 3D printing filament as they do for making cutlery etc.

And “can be composted in an industrial composter” is very different from “actually will compost in ordinary real-world garbage conditions”.

Getting off topic, but if you have Amazon Prime, I highly recommend watching Plastic China. It’s a pseudo-documentary (some scenes are obviously scripted and staged) about the social inequities (to quote one reviewer, the 'poverty, inequality, pollution, materialism, alcoholism, child labor, and sexism") in China (though not limited to China). It follows a family who survives by recycling plastic, some of which comes from overseas. The little girl is amazingly charismatic and may well still be living in the plastic wasteland she grew up in.