Products

Reimagining foodservice packaging is our obsession. Taking dead aim at disposables, we constantly blaze new trails and push the boundaries of what's possible in single-use foodservice products. Through these efforts, we've built the largest portfolio of environmentally preferable packaging options in the world.

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Product Design Opportunities throughout their Lifecycle

Design

Understanding and addressing the potential environmental impacts at each phase of our products' lifecycle starts with how we design our products. We proudly set our design standards high by only bringing products to market that have one or more of these traits:

  • Made with 100 percent renewable resources.
  • Made with post-consumer recycled content.
  • Compostable.
  • Recyclable.

Our GreenStripe® product line is made from renewable plant materials that can be grown again and again. The vast majority of this line is commercially compostable, BPI-certified, and meets ASTM International standards for commercial compostability. The world needs healthy soils treated with compost to reduce chemical use, increase water retention, and improve soil quality and structure. That way, farms and landscapes can thrive. When composted, our GreenStripe products contribute to this. Our BlueStripe™ products are made from post-consumer recycled content that once was used in other products. They contain fewer virgin resources, create less landfill waste by giving these materials another life, and support the recycling industry by creating demand for recycled content.

Legacy Products

We made progress in 2016 managing legacy products that don't meet our current design standards: cutlery kit wrappers, plant starch cutlery, and soup cup lids.

Compostable Cutlery Kit Wrappers
Our Plantware® cutlery kits contain a compostable fork, knife, spoon and napkin. But it took us a few years to find a manufacturer that could make suitable compostable film to wrap them in. Many films did not meet our quality and cost standards, so we took the time to get it right. We are happy to say that in 2016, we sourced, tested, and began using a BPI-certified compostable film for our Plantware cutlery kit wrappers. Checking this goal off the list felt pretty darn good!

Plant-Starch Cutlery and Polypropylene Soup Cup Lids
We've spent the last few years addressing our plant starch cutlery and polypropylene soup cup lids. They do not meet our current standards for all new products to be made with 100 percent renewable resources or to contain post-consumer recycled content.

The soup cup lid is made with virgin polypropylene and the cutlery is made with a blend of plant starch and virgin polypropylene, meaning it is not compostable. While you can read the backstory on these products in last year's report, it's worth explaining how these products are different from a sustainability perspective.

The polypropylene lids were developed years ago, when we introduced soup cups to our line. At the time, there were no viable compostable soup cup lids on the market. Since few customers would buy soup cups without lids, we felt compelled to offer a virgin plastic lid because that was the only option. Since then, technology has evolved and today we offer both a compostable lid and a recycled content lid.

We are now working to discontinue sales of virgin plastic lids. We removed them from our catalogs and e-commerce site. Customers can purchase our compostable soup cup lids or 25 percent post-consumer recycled content lids as alternatives. The last step is to remove these lids from our contracts with large customers, and we made great progress on this in 2016. In fact, we have identified a date to discontinue all sales and distribution in the summer of 2017. This puts us well ahead of our original goal deadline of 2020.

Plant Starch Cutlery is a different story. For customers who don't have access to composting and can't afford our compostable cutlery option, we feel this product is a better choice than conventional disposable cutlery because it is made with 70 percent plant material. We can make a strong case that 70 percent renewable is better than zero percent renewable.

However, this cutlery becomes a challenge when it ends up in the wrong place. As much as we try to communicate the fact that this cutlery is not compostable, we know that it can end up at commercial composting facilities inadvertently. We have more work to do to prevent this from happening. In 2017, we are committing to increasing our communication around this products' attributes and appropriate end-of-life destination – the landfill.

Plastic Sleeve Recycling
While we have found a compostable film for our cutlery kits, we have not identified a quality film for larger sleeves that hold cups, plates and other products. Until we do, we are trying to help customers recycle the polyethylene sleeves our products are shipped in.

Most recycling programs do not accept plastic bags and films because they get caught in the machinery, so most of our films are likely sent to a landfill. Some retail locations accept plastic films for recycling, but this isn't always convenient for our customers.

After piloting a film recycling program in 2015 with Snooze, a Colorado-based restaurant chain and Boulder Community Health, the largest health care provider in Boulder, we had intended to expand our film recycling pilot beyond our backyard and determine scalability in 2016.

We had difficulty finding suitable partners, but began consulting with leaders from Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP). WRAP is a public awareness campaign created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and American Chemistry Council that promotes recycling of plastic film packaging. We are exploring how we can collaborate with WRAP on our shared goal to collect and recycle films used in foodservice operations. This is an example of how we are constantly seeking to work with like-minded organizations to further our Zero Waste vision. We remain committed to implementing a scalable model for recycling foodservice packaging films, and have set a goal to have something in place by 2018.

Other Material Issues

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
We recognize that the materials and technologies that enable us to manufacture foodservice products come with environmental costs. This is true whether we use legacy fossil based plastics, newer renewably sourced plastics, or materials such as sugar cane or wheat straw.

Our Ingeo polylactic acid (PLA) is a type of compostable plastic currently made primarily from the starch by-product of industrially produced corn. Renewable sourcing means that Ingeo provides a low carbon footprint food serviceware product. One concern for us however, is that the # 2 yellow dent field corn grown and planted in the US is typically a mix of conventional and genetically modified (GM) corn. We understand from our primary PLA supplier, NatureWorks, that GM corn is NOT a requirement for them to produce their Ingeo PLA, it is simply what is normally supplied by North American farmers, with the current agricultural practices.

At the same time however, we have conveyed to NatureWorks our strong preference for the use of non-GMO feedstocks. NatureWorks is investing heavily in scaling non-GMO, nonfood sources for its Ingeo brand of PLA and other applications. The company also offers several options for customers to support the production of non-GM corn and 3rd party certified sustainable agricultural practices.

Corn in Bioplastics
Some people have concerns regarding using corn, a source of food, to make bioplastics. Today, Ingeo is made with field corn and not sweet corn, which is the kind we eat. The same kernel of field corn can be used to make food products, such as corn oil, salad dressing and animal feed, as well as bioplastics. So this is not an issue of food or bioplastics, but rather food and bioplastics.

To reiterate why we choose to use this material in our GreenStripe line, we feel that renewable resources are a better choice for foodservice packaging than non-renewable resources, like petroleum. Nevertheless, we have conveyed to NatureWorks our support for their research to transition from this feedstock, as more sustainable sources become available.

If using corn as a feedstock is a concern for you, please feel free to contact us to ask questions and share feedback. And be sure to check out our BlueStripe line made with post-consumer recycled content!

You can find answers to other product-related questions here.

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2017 Product Carbon Footprint




Watcha think?
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We value your opinion and would love to answer any questions you may have!

Disposable products of any kind are not good for the environment, but they aren’t going away anytime soon. Our society’s thirst for convenient and portable containers, cups and other foodservice products is driving demand across the globe.

Yet using virgin petroleum to make these products – an expensive and nonrenewable resource – is not the best way. We’ve discovered a better approach: renewable resources and post-consumer

Plantware Cutlery in a Wrapper The plastic sleeves our products are packaged in are recycled at some retail drop offs
Technically, there are no GMOs in our products because the part of the corn kernel used in our products is not genetically modified, and the high heat used in manufacturing removes all traces of genetically modified material that might happen to slip in. Nonetheless, we feel it is disingenuous to market our products as “GMO-free” when this is not true of the feedstock used to make this cutlery.