1000 years. That is how long it can take single-use plastic utensils to break down. Biodegradable utensils solve this problem.
Not only are we literally burying ourselves alive – landfills filling up faster than plastic can degrade, but our oceans are overflowing with plastic and killing countless numbers of sea-life daily.
We’re not unaffected. This plastic, and the microplastics from it, are entering our food and the air we breathe.
Over 90% of people actually test positive for traces of microplastics in our bodies, and plastic chemicals can take a drastic toll on our health.
A simple way to cut down on the 40 billion plastic utensils thrown away each year in the US alone is to use biodegradable cutlery alternatives.
But you might have some questions like:
What actually are biodegradable utensils and what are they made from?
Or what the difference between biodegradable and compostable cutlery is?
And lastly, what are the best biodegradable utensil options out there?
All of that and more will be answered below!
So, let’s get into it by answering our first question.
What are Biodegradable Utensils Made Of?
Often, bio-based biodegradable utensils are made of something called bioplastics.
These plastics are typically biodegradable by nature and produced from natural origins.
Origins like fermented plant starch from corn or sugarcane, proteins and lipids (i.e plant oils and animal fats).
Other natural materials like orange peels, woodchips, straw and even sawdust are sometimes used.
These materials are made into something called PLA (Polylactide Acid).
This material looks and behaves like traditional polypropylene and polyethylene plastics.
Other forms of biodegradable plastic exist besides PLA and these are sometimes made with petrochemicals, just like regular plastic, with chemical additives that speed up the breakdown process.
These biodegradable plastics are often known as oxo-degradable and are not favorable because they can sometimes leave behind a toxic residue or even small shards of material.
The classification of these two biodegradable plastics differentiate between renewable (bio-based) and non-renewable (petrochemical-based).
PLA and these other biodegradable options below differ from petro-based because they are not made with those same petroleum resources and do not release harmful chemicals upon decay.
What is the Difference Between Biodegradable and Compostable?
There is a lot of confusion around this topic and many think of it as a black and white difference between biodegradable and compostable.
The difference is actually more in a “gray area,” due to the different types of biodegradable plastics.
Let’s start with some definitions:
“Biodegradable polymers (BDPs) or biodegradable plastics refer to polymeric materials that are capable of decomposing into carbon dioxide, methane, water, inorganic compounds, or biomass in which the primary mechanism is the enzymatic action of microorganisms.”
In simpler terms, this means that the specific biodegradable utensil or other plastic item is able to degrade down to a microscopic level and then be consumed by microorganisms until nothing is left, regardless of conditions.
Remember though, there are biodegradable petroleum-based plastics AND bioplastics made from organic material, the latter being our focus for this article.
“A subset of BDPs may also be compostable (compostable utensils) referencing their bio-degradation in a compost system. These utensils must demonstrate that they are capable of undergoing biological decomposition in a compost site as part of an available program –
The plastic should not be visually distinguishable and should break down to carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds and biomass, at a rate consistent with known compostable materials (e.g. cellulose)’ (ASTM standard D6400).”
Again in simpler terms, this means the same end result as biodegradable, but the process uses accelerated degradation in a warm, moist, aerobic environment under controlled conditions.
This takes more work than a simple “biodegradable” silverware option, but the end result tends to be more desirable.
Although natural, traditional biodegradable utensils for example, if thrown into a standard landfill without any separation or treatment, tend to produce methane gases when the biomass breaks down.
This is a greenhouse gas with 25 times the effect of C02.
While this “landfill gas” can and is captured to be used as an energy source, The Landfill Directive seeks to reduce this total biodegradable municipal waste.
Remember, calling a product biodegradable has no inherent value if the product, after use by the customer, does not end up in a waste management system that uses proper biodegradability features.
The better option is to use biodegradable bioplastics that can be safely composted and used to generate carbon and nutrient rich compost for addition to soil.
This is usually done via aerobic waste management systems that support the needed conditions to properly degrade and produce compost.
You might ask, where are all these facilities?
They are becoming more and more prevalent as time goes by.
In the U.K. alone, more than 300 composting sites that collectively compost about 2 million tonnes of waste annually have sprung up.
A simple online search can show you your nearest facility!
Benefits of Biodegradable Utensils
Now that we know the ins and outs of bio-plastics, what are the benefits of biodegradable utensils?
It’s obvious by now the problems associated with traditional plastic cutlery.
In the US alone, roughly 40 billion plastic utensils are thrown away each year, usually after just one quick use, and end up in our landfills and waterways.
Once here, they can take up to 1000 years to degrade.
In that time, they leach tons of harmful chemicals into the air we breathe, the water we drink and even the foods we eat.
In 2010 alone, about 191 million barrels of liquid petroleum and natural gas were used to make plastic products. This number is only increasing.
We are running out of oil, while burying ourselves alive in plastic that doesn’t degrade and reeks havoc from a health and wildlife standpoint.
It’s obvious then, that biodegradable eating utensils are a very smart choice when used and disposed of properly.
In the previous section I already mentioned how bioplastics, when properly composted, can be used to make valuable soil, in turn helping the planet instead of hurting it!
Not only is this already a huge benefit, but if we can degrade and compost our cutlery, we won’t be adding to this never-ending pile of plastic.
This will prevent countless deaths of our aquatic animals, help keep oil use lower which will reduce costs, and will keep our air cleaner just to name a few.
Yes it’s true that CO2 is still produced when bio-degradation occurs, but this is not worrisome.
Unlike other plastics, bio-plastics generally do not produce a net increase in carbon dioxide gas when they break down (because the plants that were used to make them absorbed the same amount of carbon dioxide to begin with).
The material is already part of the biological carbon cycle.
PLA, for example, produces almost 70 percent less greenhouse gases when it degrades in landfills.
Producing biodegradable cutlery also requires less energy in the first place compared to petro-plastics because starch production is way less resource-heavy than petroleum refinement.
Not only is less energy used during manufacturing, but less water is used and of course less pollution produced.
Using the right biodegradable and compostable cutlery along with proper disposal practices are extremely beneficial from a health and environmental standpoint.
Here is a quick summary of some benefits:
- Saves countless plastic utensils from cluttering our ecosystem
- Increases air quality
- Less exposure to toxic chemicals
- Prevents unnecessary wildlife deaths
- Conserves non-renewable resources used in production, which can help lower oil costs
- Produces nutrient rich soil to benefit agriculture
All that and so much more!
So at this point you know how biodegradable utensils are made, the meaning of compostable and the benefits of choosing such options.
That’s great, but now you might be wondering – what are the best biodegradable utensils I should use?
In the rest of this post, we are going to discuss and show you some of your best options out there which include quality bio-plastic cutlery, edible utensils and even why reusables could be right for you!
Let’s get into it!
Best Biodegradable Utensils for Any Use that are Legit
Ready to see the best biodegradable utensil options for any use?!
Well this is where we dive on in and show you some of the absolute best biodegradable flatware in the biz, with all things considered.
These popular eco friendly options below range from biodegradable cornstarch utensils to ones made purely from avocado seed and even to silverware that’s edible when you’re finished using it!
The only options on these lists below are ones that meet all of our criteria and are the most popular to consumers and the highest rated.
We’ve done the research for you 😉
The first category we’ll look at are sets of cornstarch cutlery in a couple different size and color options!
Biodegradable Corn Utensils
Greenworks 100% Compostable 7″ CPLA Cutlery Set
This first 150-piece set of biodegradable corn utensils is from a brand called Greenworks.
Each set includes 50 biodegradable forks, 50 spoons and 50 knives, all of which are 100% compostable!
Greenworks crafts their compostable utensils from a non-GMO corn based polylactic acid (cPLA) material which is completely free of plastic and harmful chemicals.
When it comes to performance, you’ll be surprised at how rugged these 7” utensils are. The perfect seamless transition from plastic!
At Greenworks, all of their eco-friendly silverware is certified for meeting American Society for Testing and Materials standard ASTM D6400.
Also FDA approved and certified European Standard EN13432.
Ecoware Compostable Cutlery – Jumbo Pack from Nook & Fork
This next deluxe set of biodegradable utensils comes from a brand named Nook & Fork and includes a whopping 380 pieces!
That breaks down to 160 forks, 100 spoons, 60 knives and 20 bonus travel packs which come pre-packed with one of each utensil in a recyclable paper bag, great for on-the-go!
This is a great option if you want to be set for a while with cutlery, or if you have a large event coming up and need large quantities.
Like the previous option, these are crafted from a very durable cornstarch bioplastic that is 100% free of plastic chemicals and made from renewable resources!
Both of these cornstarch utensil options are heat resistant up to 200°+ Fahrenheit!
To make this set fully eco-friendly, even the stylish packaging your cutlery comes in is crafted from recycled cardboard and can also be composted!
This set comes in a really unique “eco-green” color that will be easily distinguishable as your eco alternative!
Disposable Bamboo Utensils
Ibamboo Natural Disposable Bamboo Utensils 100-piece Set
We haven’t mentioned bamboo in the previous sections of this post, but I wanted to include a set because they are an amazing sustainable and eco-friendly option!
This 100-piece set of bamboo disposable cutlery from Ibamboo includes 50 forks, 25 spoons and 25 knives.
Bamboo is actually considered a grass and grows very fast due to a unique rhizome-dependent system, some species growing 36 inches in only a 24 hour period!
This makes it incredibly sustainable for use as single-use cutlery and of course very safe and plastic-free!
But is bamboo biodegradable?
Yes! Bamboo compostable cutlery is naturally biodegradable so if you don’t have any composting facilities nearby, this might be your best option!
Biodegradable Utensils from Avocado Pits
Avoplast Fork – 24 Pack Avocado Cutlery
Another rising star in the world of eco friendly utensils are biodegradable utensils made from avocado seeds!
That’s right, this biodegradable plasticware from Avoplast is literally made from Avocado.
Instead of only eating avocado, we can now eat WITH it too by using avocado cutlery!
Normally guacamole and avocado oil manufacturers will throw away their pits at the end of production.
Instead of going to the landfill, this company turns avocado pit waste into biodegradable straws and cutlery.
These bioplastics are similar to corn cutlery because avocado seeds have a similar molecular makeup.
Because of all the CO2 absorbed by the avocado tree to form its tissues, any CO2 given off from these utensils in a landfill is already part of the natural carbon cycle, making them neutral.
Once either in a compost pile or in a landfill, these avocado seed utensils take about 240 days to biodegrade.
Much better than 1000 years like regular plastic huh?
Avoplast has a whole line of biodegradable tableware, all made from avocado! (see below)
Their line of avocado pit cutlery includes an assorted set, a fork set, spoon set, knife set and straw set!
Biodegradable Edible Utensils
Yes, that’s right. What better way to eliminate plastic waste than biodegradable edible utensils!?
Composting is not your only option for being eco-friendly because some utensils can actually be eaten after use. YUM!!
Unfortunately, perhaps due to difficulties with creating shapes, not many edible utensil options are available and for the sake of this article, I’ll be showing you spoons and straws.
This might seem like a bit of a let down, but even just spoons and straws will allow you to reduce incredible amounts of plastic pollution.
Spoons for example, would make a great idea for desserts such as ice cream and would actually enhance your eating experience!
This would be extremely beneficial for businesses especially because I know for me, I wouldn’t forget a place that served me with edible utensils!
Not just a memorable novelty, but produces absolutely no waste whatsoever! A double win!!
Let’s look at our first example of edible spoons!
Edible Spoons – Eco Friendly Cutlery (Chocolate) 20-pack
These unique biodegradable spoons from the brand incrEDIBLE are a fun and tasty way to cut down on single-use plastic waste!
The spoons are made with a base of wheat, oat, corn, chickpea, and barley with a minimal amount of sweetness to preserve the taste of your dish.
incrEDIBLE spoons are non-GMO, vegan, edible and even backyard compostable so even if you don’t want to eat the spoon, you can easily compost it into some quality top soil!
No occasion is out of reach for these eco-friendly utensils as they can be enjoyed with both hot and cold foods and will hold their structure for 30 minutes in ice cream or soup.
The pictured option here is a delicious chocolate flavor and vanilla is also available.
20 spoons come per pack, each individually wrapped in recyclable paper bags for freshness.
Ecostraws – Straws from Pasta – Thick Size
Next up in our biodegradable edible utensils lineup are some amazing pasta straws from Ecostraws!
We all know and love pasta and I know for me, I’ve impatiently enjoyed raw pasta plenty of times while cooking.
But you probably haven’t thought about using long, hollow pasta as a drinking straw. Well here it is!
Ecostraw’s biodegradable straws are prepared from 100% durum wheat semolina, made in Italy and hand selected in Tampa Bay.
Each straw is highly-versatile, measuring 10 inches in length and wide enough to be used with smoothies and bubble teas!
Just like the edible spoons, your pasta straws can easily be composted and will fully biodegrade if you’d rather not eat them.
One pack contains 24 drinking straws and they can last for over an hour in a beverage before they soften.
A perfect environment-friendly replacement for plastic straws in restaurants and homes!
Reusable Utensil Kits
Before we conclude, I want to quickly touch on what I think is your best option overall for reducing plastic waste and eliminating toxic chemical exposure – and those are reusable utensil kits for on-the-go!
Biodegradable cutlery and composting in general is always a very beneficial choice and is astronomically better than single-use plastic.
But by using a reusable utensil set made from stainless steel or bamboo for example, you can avoid plastic, reduce pollution and even save money in the long run over disposables!
For large parties and events, this is hard to do with reusable cutlery, so biodegradable disposable cutlery may be your best choice.
But if it’s only you and your family, taking that extra time to clean up and reuse your utensils, although a little extra work, would be best!
Many of these reusable utensil kits include everything from forks, spoons and knives to straws and even chopsticks!
All of which nestled in convenient travel pouches 😉
Disclosure: The products mentioned in this post were researched and discovered to be some of the best in their market. I did this as a resource for you in case you wanted to further explore that particular product/ brand, without doing the tedious research. I may receive a small commission if you purchase through those links at no cost to you.