A lot of restaurants and food providers have begun switching out petroleum based take-out containers like styrofoam and plastic clamshells with compostable containers. This new category of single use container is made from molded plant fibers and starches. They are designed to fully break down into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds and biomass like leaves and paper when composted properly. Industrial composting is recommended over backyard composting for these materials because they generally take a higher heat pile to break down in a timely fashion. Some of the coatings that provide moisture resistance on these containers are proving to be bad for soil used in food applications – talking to you PFAS. So even thought the paper type compostable take-out containers technically can be backyard composted, it’s not recommended.
If put into the landfill, which is anaerobic (devoid of oxygen), these items break down at the same glacial speed of other entombed items. This slower process releases methane gas which as a climate heating agent is over 80 times worse than naturally occurring C02 released during composting.
Be sure to take these containers to city/industrial composting facilities or in the compost bins at the restaurant or food provider where you got them. If the business isn’t providing compost bins they are only offering half a solution.
Here in Nashville, you can take compostable paper and plastic items to the compost bins at any Metro Convenience Center or put them with your weekly Compost Nashville pickup service.
It’s great when we are provided with options like these that cost restaurants significantly more than styrofoam and other petroleum based products but if we don’t dispose of them properly then it’s like Maris says in the video, “They’re just expensive trash”.