Georgia Pacific is claiming that their Perfectouch hot cups are compostable.
(If the print is a bit small, just click the picture to see the live version on Georgia Pacific’s site).
We know this is false for two reasons:
The hot cups are not certified by the BPI (the leading certifier of compostable packaging) nor is there any evidence that the hot cups meet the national standards for compostability, ASTM D6400 & D6868, and
The hot cups are lined with a plastic polymer, polyethylene (PE), and in a recent study commissioned by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition it was found that only 8.3% of commericial composting facilities that accept food packaging accept paper hot cups lined with polyethylene (vs. 80% acceptance for paper cups lined with a bio-plastic like poly-lactic acid).
These Perfectouch hot cups are unfortunately green washing and they do the entire industry a disservice.
UPDATE (8/3/2010): Viv Video | “Compostable Hot Cups – 4 Tips to Buying Truly Green Biodegradable Coffee Cups”
So as we’ve mentioned, we’ve come to a conclusion recently that a large knowledge gap exists regarding biodegradable food packaging products and biodegradable cups.
We recently wrote up a buyer’s guide on compostable cold cups. We encourage you to read this guide first as it will give you the foundational buying knowledge you need when it comes to purchasing biodegradable cups.
UPDATE (8/3/2010): Viv Video Highlighting 4 Tips for Purchasing Biodegradable Cups
In this post we will focus on highlighting new criteria / information that you should be aware of specifically for biodegradable coffee cups.
Biodegradable Coffee Cups
Here’s what all purchasing managers need to know / evaluate when purchasing biodegradable cups and biodegradable coffee cups.
1. Price – This is again the most important factor for most organizations when it comes to purchasing biodegradable coffee cups. Again, we believe we have the best pricing available for small businesses, and as such, we encourage you to look around as pricing does vary widely.
2. Quality – Biodegradable coffee cup molds do not vary as profoundly as do molds for cold cups, and thus biodegradable coffee cups tend to be of similar quality. We do find that some are a bit more sturdy than others, but on the whole, quality is very similar across these biodegradable cups.
3. Design / Labeling – Again, labeling that identifies the biodegradable cups as 100% compostable is highly important. For more on why, please refer back to our buyer’s guide for compostable cold cups.
I’d like to focus here though on two very very important design aspects that many new-to-eco purchasers are not aware of.
Inner Lining of Biodegradable Cups – DO NOT PURCHASE BIODEGRADABLE COFFEE CUPS THAT HAVE A POLYETHYLENE (PE) OR PETROLEUM-BASED LINING.The vast majority of commercial composting facilities will not accept these cups as they contaminate compost1. ONLY PURCHASE BIODEGRADABLE CUPS THAT ARE SPECIFICALLY LABELED AS CONTAINING A “BIO-BASED” OR “BIO-PLASTIC” LINING. If the cups don’t say this, they’re probably lined with PE.
Sustainable Design – Truly eco-friendly paper hot cups should also be:
Made from high-levels of post-consumers recycled content
FSC, Forest Stewardship Council, certified as coming from well managed forests, and
ECF, elemental chlorine free, or PCF, processed chlorine free.
There are many biodegradable coffee cups out there today claiming to be compostable & eco-friendly and they are not. They’re lined with polyethelyne and are not made with high-levels of recycled content, FSC-certified, or PCF/ECF. We highly recommend steering clear of these cups.
4. Applications – Biodegradable coffee cups can be filled with any liquid, cold or hot. Typical uses by size that we’ve seen include:
8oz, 10oz, 12oz, 16oz, 20oz – Coffee, Tea
4oz, 6oz – Espresso, Tastings of hot beverages, Warm Sake
5. Compostability – Again, per our previous guide on cold cups make sure that the biodegradable cups you purchase are 100% compostable and are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI).
And If you have other things that you think we’ve missed or that you look for in biodegradable cups, please do add them in the comments.
About the Author: Dinesh is a co-founder of the Viv Biz Club, and has worked with hundreds of business owners and/or purchasing managers regarding their compostable needs. The Viv Biz Club works with a wide range of organizations, including: restaurants, cafes, schools, churches, farms, beverage companies, start-ups, in more than 30 states across the country.
1) In a recent study commissions by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition it was found that only 8.3% of commericial composting facilities that accept food packaging also accept coffee cups with polyethylene (PE) lining (vs. 80% acceptance for biodegradable coffee cups lined with a bio-plastic like poly-lactic acid).
Biodegradable Coffee Cups & Biodegradable Cups - 5 Things You Must Know52
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