So as we speak to more and more of our food service businesses about their purchasing needs, one thing has become very clear – there’s a major knowledge gap regarding compostable food packaging products.
Folks want to switch over to compostables, but they have many unanswered questions:
… the list goes on.
As such, we thought it’d be worthwhile for us to write up buyer’s guides for a few of the most popular products. So without further ado…
There are a variety of compostable cups in the market. Today we’re going to focus exclusively on Compostable Cold Cups. We’ll cover Hot Cups in a different guide.
Here’s what all purchasing managers need to know / evaluate when purchasing their compostable corn cups.
1. Price – Quite honestly this is the most important factor for most organizations when it comes to purchasing cups. Compostable corn cups tend to be more expensive than plastic or styrofoam, so the important comparisons are between vendors of compostable food ware. We’ve done price comparisons before and perhaps we’re a bit biased, but on the whole I think for small businesses we have the best pricing in the business. That being said, a few quick google searches for “compostable cold cups” should pull up a number of vendors whose prices you can compare.
2. Quality – Almost all compostable corn cups are made from PLA – poly-lactic acid derived from corn starch. As of now, I have not seen any compostable cold cups in the market that claim to be specifically from non-GMO corn. If you know of one however, please drop me an email at Partners@VivBizClub.com.
Some cold cups have a very thick mold, some are thinner. Thicker cups tend to be a bit more expensive, so you need to decide what’s right for your organization. Once you’ve done that, the best thing to do is order samples or small packs of cups to make sure they’ll work for your purposes.
3. Design / Labeling – This is very important and I think overlooked by most businesses. Compostable cups need to have very clear labeling that states that the cup is “100% compostable.” This is important for two reasons: a) so that consumers place the cups in a composting bin – not in a waste or recycling bin, and b) so that even if the cup accidentally ends up in a recycling bin (which inevitable happens), they can be identified when at a recycling facility and removed so that they do not contaminate the recycling (that’s right folks – compostable plastics can not be recycled! – they contaminate recycling as they melt at high heats and must be put in a home composter or sent to a composting facility). Most municipalities prefer that the “100% Compostable” labeling is green in color to make sorting even easier.
4. Applications – There’s a reason they’re called Cold Cups. They’re not for use with hot liquids. PLA starts to melt at temperatures north of 110 degrees F (cups should also not be stored in a particularly hot environment). Any cold food or beverage will be fine though and typical uses by size that I’ve seen include:
5. Compostability – The simplest thing to do to make sure that the cups you purchase are 100% compostable is to make sure your vendor’s products are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI). In America, the standard for compostable plastics is ASTM-D6400. The BPI certifies that products meet this standard.
Once you’re sure that the product is 100% compostable it’s important to actually compost it :-). If you’re not composting the cups, you’re missing out on a very large part of the environmental benefit associated with them. Vendors should have information available regarding approximate composting times for different composting environments. Compostable plastics should break down within 180 days in a commercial composting facility. In a home composting system they can take longer as home composting systems do not heat up as much as commercial systems. We definitely recommend using a commercial facility for the products if one is available in your region (remember – you can use services like Find A Composter to find a commercial composting facility that accepts compostable cups.
So hopefully you’ve found the information helpful.
If you’d like, you can check out our compostable cold cups (from World Centric).
And If you have other things that you think we’ve missed or that you look for in a compostable cold cup, please contact us.
About the Author: Dinesh was a co-founder of the Viv Biz Club, and has worked & spoken with hundreds of business owners and/or purchasing managers regarding their compostable needs. The Viv Biz Club works with a wide range of organizations (e.g., restaurants, cafes, schools, churches, farms, beverage companies, start-ups) in more than 30 states across the country.