While there are some excellent sustainable alternatives for harmful plastic cutlery, you must have wondered, which one is eco-friendlier? Is wooden cutlery your best option? Or is compostable cutlery a better choice? How are these made and are they really biodegradable and compostable?
These reasonable questions are good to ask yourself since not all of these alternatives are created equally and not all of them are as eco-friendly as you might think.
As eco-warriors ourselves we have done the research for you and answered 7 of the most asked questions on the internet about these products. Even though we sell wooden cutlery, we like to keep things straight. Each answer is backed with more literature for you to fact-check.
Question 1: Is Wooden Cutlery really eco-friendly?
The belief that to be sustainable you should not use wooden products at all since you're cutting down trees in the process might seem logical. Yet it is perfectly fine for the health of forests to use wood as a material for disposable cutlery, but only if the wood is sourced from well-managed forests supervised by the Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance.
The FSC and Rainforest Alliance came to life in 1992 after the earth summit in Rio failed to create an agreement to stop deforestation. In response, a committed group of businesses, environmentalists, and community leaders came together to improve worldwide forestry practices.
They’ve set a high standard for what is and what isn’t sustainable forestry and do periodical checks to their license owners to maintain the trustworthiness of the certificates and supply chains.
To show the effectiveness of their approach you can read the reports by the PEFC. They do independent audits of these certified forests to measure forest sizes and more which they then document in publications.
The result? FSC and Rainforest Alliance certified forests have seen growth each consecutive year, further improving the health and size of these forests!
Wooden cutlery is eco-friendly if they are made with FSC certificated wood. Beware of wooden cutlery without FSC certifications. Without these, you will very likely contribute to illegal deforestation from so-called “dirty wood”, often sourced from Russia or South Africa.
Look for FSC and Rainforest Alliance certifications for any paper or wooden product on the. product packaging, like with our Wooden Cutlery Set!
Question 2: How is Wooden Cutlery made and from which tree species are they made of?
Wooden cutlery can be made from the birch tree, oak, maple, beech trees, or Japanese alder. Most of the time it will be made from the fast-growing silver birch trees, like our wooden cutlery. Due to their rapid growth, silver birch trees quickly colonize open ground, making it able for farmers to quickly regrow their forest.
After the harvesting, these wooden trees are then sown into small and very thin sheets, called veneer sheets. (insert picture). These are then soaked in hot water until softened. Afterward, these single veneer sheets are then compressed into multiple thicker veneer sheets.
Then they are dried and cut out by a machine for wooden cutlery manufacturing. Under pressure this machine stamps out these sheets into a mold that holds their desired shapes, being wooden forks, spoons, and knives.
The wooden silverware is not yet dinner ready though. The last step called the sanding process is crucial for a comfortable eating experience. Wooden cutlery will go into a tumble sanding machine where they will be polished to be relieved from any splinters. This process can take up to 2-4 hours and then finally, you have your strong and splinter-free wooden utensil.
We would like to point out that our production process is slightly different compared to other manufacturers. First off, we only use FSC certified wood. Secondly, we do not use any glue to connect the veneer sheets, die or bleach the wood in the soaking process and we do not add any synthetics or chemical coatings that would otherwise be ingested or leaked out into the earth at the after-use composting process. This way we like to keep our cutlery as naturally as possible.
Wooden cutlery is usually made from fast-growing silver birch trees. These are sown into very small thin sheets, called veneer sheets. These sheets are then soaked and pressed together into thicker multiple veneer sheets. Eventually, the multiple veneer sheets are pressed out by a stamping machine and sanded by a sanding machine to make them splinter-free.
Question 3: How is Compostable Cutlery made and what is it made of?
Here we have to get a bit technical. Compostable cutlery is made from CPLA, is also known as a bioplastic. PLA stands for polylactic acid and C-PLA is the crystallized form of this material.
This compostable plastic is chemically extracted from sugarcane and corn starches. Then it will be turned into glucose using chemical processes. Afterward, the glucose is fermented into lactic acid. Then another chemical process transforms lactic acid into a polymer resin.
This material makes it degradable by nature, but only under very specific circumstances, which we will talk about later.
The resin is the almost final product that is moldable into different properties. Mostly the resin will be turned into pellets. These pellets are then re-heatable just like regular plastics into whatever molds you would want. In this case, being bioplastic cutlery.
CPLA cutlery or bioplastic cutlery is made from sugarcane and cornstarches. This is then chemically transformed into a polymer resin and eventually CPLA pellets. Like regular plastic, these pellets are reheated and pressed into cutlery shapes with a mold.
Question 4: Can Wooden Cutlery be composted?
First off, there is a difference between something being compostable or biodegradable. For example, something could be compostable without being biodegradable.
The difference being is that biodegradation is a naturally occurring process where organic materials decompose by microbes and fungi, without human intervention. Whilst composting is a human-driven way of biodegradation.
Then there is a difference between backyard composting and industrial composting. Backyard composting is the process of decomposing your organic waste in a purchased compost bin or self-made compost bin. Here you will try to regulate the temperature or add some microbes to stimulate the degradation process.
Industrial composting facilities are places where materials like CPLA corn plastics but also your organic waste like meat, bones, oils go to. Even some milk cartons, cardboard, and dairy products will be degraded here. First chippers and grinders are used in pre-processing to break down dense materials. Then they end up the compost pile. Here CPLA products can be degraded in 6-12 months, depending on the temperature.
Industrial composting is great since it offers biodegradable materials to be reused as fertile soil for gardens or forestry.
Wooden cutlery is suitable for home composting / backyard composting and is easily degraded in nature by microbes and fungi. It is also biodegradable when buried under random soil. Nature will take care of it and reuse the degraded wood as energy for the growth of new plants and trees.
But human-invented materials like bioplastics are by far means not even close to being backyard compostable and only compost under industrial composting environments.
Question 5: Can Compostable Cutlery be Composted
Right off the bat? Compostable cutlery is not suitable for backyard composting. If you put compostable cutlery in your compost bin or bury it in soil, you can expect it to still be there years after being put there. There is just not enough going on in your compost bin for microbes and fungi to decompose these bioplastic materials.
Compostable cutlery made from the bioplastic is also not meant to end up in ordinary landfills. When tossed in the generic trash, bioplastics will sit on unsuitable landfills or be burned just like any other plastics. There is also the possibility for it to be carried away by wind ending up harming our eco-system.
However, CPLA cutlery can be composted at an industrial or commercial composting facility in approximately 180 days. Here there is additional heat, water, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and extra microbes that are required for these utensils to decompose.
This is a feasible option since this way these utensils are less likely to end up harming our oceans or wildlife. Yet it is not the eco-friendliest option since these industrial composting facilities require requires a lot of electricity for them to degrade these, further contributing to global warming.
Bioplastic or CPLA cutlery is not suitable for backyard composting or your compost bin. Industrial composting facilities are needed which takes a lot of energy and the end material is still non-usable to nature.
Question 6: Is wooden cutlery recyclable?
So, what happens if you throw wooden cutlery in the generic trash? The answer is quite simple. If waste collection systems allow it the wood will be separated and recycled. Most waste management facilities require you to separate it before collection. If it is not separated it is possible it will be ending up at your local landfill, which is not too bad since it will decompose rather easily.
But it won’t end up where it can truly meet its purpose, the backyard compost bin or organic waste bin where nature will turn this material into nutrient-rich soil for your backyard or turn into purchasable soil.
If you bring your wooden cutlery to a facility where they have bins for wood, it can be recycled. But it is better to not put your wooden cutlery in the recycling bin but to put it in your garden waste or compost bin instead. Or by burying in random earth for it to be degraded by nature.
Wooden cutlery can be recycled if your local waste collection systems allow it. If this is not the case you can throw your wooden cutlery in the organic waste bin or your compost bin to turn it into nutrient-rich soil which can be recycled and reused by nature.
Question 7: Is compostable cutlery recyclable?
Before we dive into answering this question we would like to note that plastic recycling in the US is broken.
A staggering 99% of plastic cutlery and other plastic packaging are refused for recycling in the US according to a recent Greenpeace study of February 2020. Unfortunately, in a lot of countries, CPLA products are also refused for recycling.
“Currently PLA plastic collections systems are limited in North America so this material does not currently meet the collection accessibility criteria” - The Association Of Plastic Recycling
As with regular plastic, bioplastic needs to be recycled separately per bioplastic type. CPLA Cutlery can however be recycled, but only if being brought to an industrial recycling facility which can handle this type of recycling, which is rare in North America.
If compostable cutlery is thrown in the curbside trash bins it will very likely end up at the local landfill pile. This is not too great since here CPLA Cutlery won’t degrade by itself. As stated above, it needs industrial waste management facilities with specific conditions for it to compost or for it to be recycled.
Bioplastics like CPLA need to be recycled separately per bioplastic type. Currently, North American bioplastic collection systems that do this are very limited.
Made up your mind?
Be the eco-hero of the party and enjoy convenience without guilt! Impress your guests with our premium and still affordable wooden cutlery set available on Amazon.com!
Sustainably made thanks to our Forest Stewardship Council & Rainforest Alliance certifications!
Strongest, smoothest, and most splinter-free wooden cutlery on the market!
Improved shapes for perfect performance and ease of use!
No chemical or synthetic treatments!
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