AT On... Biodegradable in Home Composting?

AT On... Biodegradable in Home Composting?

Jonathan B.
Aug 25, 2008

That little green composting bin we've raved about is, we're afraid, a teensy bit enabling for our nasty paper towel habit. (We've made huge progress—we promise!)

Now we're wondering if "Biodegradable in Home Composting" is the new way to reduce consumer guilt about buying stuff without actually changing behavior.

Here's what got us thinking. Over the weekend, we ate at our favorite Indian restaurant in Berkeley. It's a big, noisy, order-at-the-counter kind of place where delicious food is dished up on Chinet, which we're guessing comes from the very same Costco where we spotted the newly "greened" disposable plates. You grab a couple paper napkins, some plastic utensils, and eat your samosa and dosa at big, rickety tables.

When you're done, you bus your own table and toss it all away: soda cans, plastic utensils, and "compostable" plates all mingled together in giant garbage bins. But really, shouldn't they have to use compostable corn-based plastic utensils? Couldn't they instead compost all the stuff they're just sending to the dump? There's at least one quick service place in Berkeley doing just that.

That would be an improvement, just as chucking a dirty paper towel into the compost bin is better than putting it in the garbage, and we know this option is only available in places like Berkeley, where the city collects compost along with garbage and recycling. But we're thinking "compostable" plates and paper towels are a false cure. Really, shouldn't we be using reusable plates and cloth rags whenever possible, at home and away?

image Jonathan Bean

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