Disposable Utensils Going Green

Choosing the right disposable flatware for your food service operation might seem like a daunting task. With so many options out there featuring different price points and a variety of green attributes, how can you tell which is the best choice?

In general, non-disposable table settings are the way to go when considering the most environmentally preferable products. If your operation is not a dine-in establishment and there are places to sit and eat nearby, such as picnic tables or other outdoor seating, staff can ask customers if they would prefer non-disposable tableware. Posting signage to let customers know the benefits of using non-disposable utensils might help inform their decisions. If your establishment has a website, you can ask visitors to the site to bring their own utensils. There are many great options for portable reusable utensils that you should consider selling in your retail outlets.

Unfortunately, the non-disposable option is not feasible for all food service operations due to cost and storage space restrictions. The good news is that environmentally preferable options are increasingly better designed and more effectively able to biodegrade or be recycled or composted. They are also becoming more affordable.

There are two main types of environmentally preferable utensil materials: bioplastic and wood or bamboo. Bioplastics are made from vegetable fats, oils, corn and potato starch, or other biomass products. Utensils made from bioplastic look and feel similar to traditional plastic utensils, and they tend to be sturdier than wood or bamboo utensils. Wood or bamboo utensils are more effective in high heat settings, and most brands can even be composted in your onsite compost pile. Green utensil brands—especially those made of bioplastic—vary in the amount of time it takes for them to break down, so it is a good idea to perform research before making your selection.

Once you think you have found a good fit, you can contact your recycling or composting handler to ensure your selection will be accepted at the facility. Whatever your choice, it is a good idea to ask your customers if they need disposable utensils before automatically including them with their order. Below are just a few of the many resources to help you choose the best disposable utensils for your operation.

  • WebstaurantStore provides information to help you compare types of disposable flatware as well as various environmentally preferable brands you can purchase from the site.
  • Joanne Hudson Basics has wood and bioplastic disposable utensils as well as portable reusable utensil options.
  • Ecoware offers compostable wooden utensils that can be customized and ordered in bulk.
  • Birchware sells compostable wooden utensils at various price points.
  • BioGreenChoice has bioplastic utensils and environmentally friendly packaging.
  • Vegware offers compostable and biodegradable tableware and packaging as well as other environmental and sustainable waste management support services.