Waste Reduction At Work: Compostable Partyware

The holiday season is here! It seems like office parties double around this time of the year. While they are a great way to get to know your colleagues and enjoy great food, they also generate a lot of garbage that ends up in the landfill. Well, let’s solve this problem, shall we?

Most of the party trash comes from the items that we use to consume food: napkins, plates, utensils, and cups. Our goal is to ensure that these items can go in the recycling or compost bin. Recyclable items are those that Waste Management accepts in their recycling center while compostable items are those that have been tested and approved by Cedar Grove, our regional composting facility. The brands listed below are just a sample of Cedar Grove-approved items. Here’s a complete list (just click on an item to view all the approved brands).

Paper napkins
All paper napkins (regardless of color and weight) are considered “food-soiled paper” and should go in the compost bin just like pizza boxes and paper towels.

Please do not use any StyrofoamTM or disposable plastic plates because those are neither recyclable nor compostable. Food-soiled paper plates never go in the recycling bin so our next option is to ensure that they are compostable. Compostable paper plates don’t have any plastic coating on them.

Compostable v. Noncompostable plates

Disposable plastic utensils are neither recyclable nor compostable. Opt for compostable forks, spoons, and knives.

Compostable v. Noncompostable utensils

Again, please do not use any StyrofoamTM cups because they are neither recyclable nor compostable. Most plastic cups can go in the recycling bin. One popular brand is Solo (those ubiquitous red cups). The best option is to use compostable cups because they are made from plant-based materials and not petroleum (anything plastic is made out of petroleum).

Compostable cups

My two awesome colleagues, Philip and Teri, reminded me that the best option is really to use durable/reusable plates, utensils, and cups. Yes, indeed (I called them awesome for a reason!). Using reusable items is always the best option because no new materials are needed to make, package, and transport them; and they are cheaper in the long run. I find it amusing how we use durable/reusable plates at home, but when we’re at work, we automatically switch to “disposables” mode. Insert your own sad face here.

Encourage your coworkers to bring their own durable/reusable plate and utensils to use, but if you get hate mails and incessant whining, the next best thing is to keep the above brands in mind when planning your next office shindig.

Has your office successfully switched to compostable partyware? How did you do it?

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