environmental take out containers santa cruz
April 2019

Look for Alternatives to Compostable To-Go Ware: Green Tip

By Meredith Keet, Founder The Zero Shop

In 2017, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors passed new rules for restaurants requiring that all food to-go ware provided to customers in unincorporated areas of Santa Cruz County be recyclable or certified compostable. At the time, this seemed to be a promising step forward. Now, for those of us without access to industrial composting, we do have to wonder, once we’ve carried these certified compostable items home, what do we with them?

environmental take out containers santa cruz

Can we recycle them? Can we throw them in our home compost bins? With a few exceptions, the answer to both of these questions is actually…“No”.

For many recycling centers, these bio-plastic compostables are often seen as contaminants when mixed with regular plastics and can make our already difficult to recycle plastics even more difficult to recycle. As for compost- ing, certified compostable dishware typically requires a much higher temperature for breakdown than our backyard compost heaps can generate. This means that it would never break down in your home compost or that it may take years at best. Ultimately, we should be placing these materials in the trash bin if we cannot compost them industrially. There is debate about whether in the landfill they break down similar to the way plastics do or if they are even worse for the environment due to the release of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, as they break down.

As you can see, these compostable alternatives to single-use plastic are not the silver bullet we all were hoping for. It’s tricky and further complicated by our lack of access to industrial composting. What can you do? Instead of grabbing a single-use compostable container, you might consider bringing your own reusable container for take-away, be it a coffee mug, bamboo utensils, or any old container from home. You can also reach out to your local representative to ask for municipal composting!

The Zero Shop serves as a resource for building sustainable habits into our everyday lives.

We strive to create a positive impact on our community and beyond for the health and future of our planet.
Find us online at www.thezeroshopsc.com and at 101 Capitola Ave in Capitola Village!

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