The San Francisco Examiner recently wrote an article titled “Compostable straws are great, but they’re no zero waste unicorn” where ReThink Disposable's California program manager was quoted about the environmental impacts of single use products marketed as compostable that still take resources to produce and require downstream waste sorting, hauling, and processing. Sometimes these products don't even make it to compost and not all compostable food ware is allowed in commercial organics collection streams. “‘We’re trying to get less toxic and benign materials out there, but they’re still having an impact,’ Samantha Sommer from the nonprofit Clean Water Action told me. ‘And they’re more expensive.’”
ReThink Disposable is all about eliminating the need or at least reducing the amount of disposables being used in the fod service industry. Whether it’s certified compostable, plastic, or paper it is still a single-use disposable item. Many places like to think they are doing their part for the environment by buying these more expensive compostable products but as the article mentions, they only break down if you put them in the right bin and “Many other trash providers in California and around the country don’t have the same technology” to process these items.
The article also mentioned the Center for Environmental Health’s new report “Avoiding Hidden Hazards: A Purchaser’s Guide to Safer Foodware” which revealed that many fiber molded compostable products are not as safe as we thought and contain toxic chemicals. They recommend “avoiding molded fiber foodware at this time” and urged “manufacturers to prioritize the removal of Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) from their products and to ensure that any replacement materials or chemicals are safe for human and environmental health.” The report mentioned that these chemicals, PFAS, have been connected to some serious health problems like “kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disruption, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), delayed puberty and obesity.” This doesn’t sound like something I want touching and migrating into my food. As the article put so beautifully, “There’s no reason to waste money on products we barely use, especially if they’re unhealthy for our beaches and bodies.”
When it comes to the bigger picture, the focus needs to shift to reducing our consumption of all single use disposable items that we consume for mere minutes and discard.
ReThink Disposable. Think Reusable.