Question: I want to adopt green packaging but there are simply too many choices. Which is the greener option: a biodegradable or a compostable container?

Answer: Dissecting labels can be tough, and often confusing. To help you muddle through the ins and outs of ecofriendly packaging, we found this awesome article written by Jeanelle D’Eon on the LEAF website that we think will answer all your questions!

Biodegradable or Compostable? Which take-out container is “greener”?

Labelling can be one of the most confusing aspects when looking for an environmentally sustainable product. When in comes to take out containers, the terms biodegradable and compostable dominate in popularity and cause plenty of confusion. While these two descriptors may seem similar (even interchangeable), they can mean very different things and have major differences when it comes to the end of the product’s life cycle.

Truly biodegradable products (such a paper-based take out containers and wooden utensils) have the ability to break down completely in nature with the help of living organisms like bacteria, or they can be composted in a simple backyard composter. Although they break down easily, if they end up in the landfill they will produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Unfortunately, not all compostable food service products are biodegradable. Simple compostable products can be composted in a backyard composter, without complicated equipment. These products are returned to earth safely, without harming the land, air or water. However, many newer products that are labelled as biodegradable or compostable (such as bio-based plastics), require industrial composting facilities to break them down. Unfortunately, not all municipalities have these facilities, so many of these products end up in the landfill. This is where the major difference comes in – these industrially-compostable products will not break down in the landfill. Or, if they do, it’s estimated to take a few hundred years, or more.

The composting process doesn’t release nearly as much greenhouse gas in comparison to biodegradable products found in a landfill. Essentially, truly compostable, non-plastic products are a more environmentally sustainable choice, but other considerations need to be made. When it comes to choosing a take out container, restaurateurs should consider a few key things:

Does my municipality have industrial composting facilities?  If not, consider a 100% recycled product instead.

Are my patrons likely to dispose of these products properly, or will most of them end up in landfill? 

Considering the above questions, what product will have the least harm on the environment? 

100% recycled, paper-based take out containers and wood-based utensils are a few of our preferred options. What type of container are you using in your restaurant, and why?

 image credit: ginnerobot