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The Small Business Guide to Eco-friendly Takeout

Posted on September 26, 2017 by Rachel Tardif There have been 0 comments

We all know that plastic is damaging to the environment. Every part of its lifecycle – from production to use to disposal – dumps toxic chemicals into our bodies and into the environment which makes getting rid of plastic one of the best ways to go green. If you’re a small business, though, it can be hard to find economic and eco-friendly replacements for common plastic products, especially when it comes to items like take-out containers, cups, plates, and straws that need to be cheap and disposable. It might seem like plastic and Styrofoam are your only options, but recent years have seen a surge in the development of new, non-toxic materials that can take the place of environmentally damaging plastics without hurting your bottom line. So whether you’re a restaurant looking to cut down on waste and impress your customers with your green credentials or you just want to make your office kitchen more eco-friendly, here’s your guide to choosing the compostable kitchen products that are right for your business.


The discovery of just how dangerous plastic is to both people and the environment has led scientists on a search to find new, less toxic substitutes for plastic. One of the most successful of these has been polylactic acid – PLA – a bioplastic derived from corn starch instead of petroleum. PLA is biodegradable, which means you’ll be keeping plastic out of landfills, and will decompose without leaving behind toxic chemicals. It is also free from additives like phthalates and BPA that can leach from other plastics into food and beverages.


  • Compostable
  • Perfect for cold beverage cups and take-out containers


  • Will not biodegrade except under composting conditions, so you’ll need to find an industrial compost site for your waste disposal.
  • Non-microwavable
  • Tolerates heat up to 120° and is not recommended for hot liquids.

Potato Starch (Taterware)

Chemically-altered potato starch can be molded just like plastic to make sturdy, biodegradable products like cutlery, plates, and take-out containers. Non-genetically modified, low-quality potatoes are an abundant, easy-to-use renewable resource, and taterware products are sturdy enough to meet any of your tableware needs. They feel similar to plastic, and are actually dishwasher safe and reusable as well.


  • Dishwasher safe
  • Microwavable
  • Tolerates heat up to 200°


  • The additives necessary to make potato starch products can slow down decomposition, which means that some types of taterware will require industrial compost conditions to break down. Look for potato starch options that meet the ASTM D 6400 standards for compostability if you want to make sure the products you buy will be compostable. 


If you want to avoid plastics altogether, bagasse, a cardboard-like material made from sugarcane pulp, is the way to go. It’s waterproof and heat-tolerant, which means you won’t have to worry about sticking it in the freezer or microwave. And, because it will break down both in an industrial compost bin as well as under normal soil conditions, you’ll be helping the environment no matter where it gets tossed out.


  • Compostable and biodegradable
  • Tolerates heat up to 200° and will hold hot liquids like coffee, tea, and soup.
  • Microwavable


  • Not reusable like plastics
  • Not sturdy enough for cutlery

Other considerations

Compostable versus biodegradable

While similar, the terms biodegradable and compostable actually have slightly different meanings. If something is labeled biodegradable, that means it will break down into carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and water (usually along with a few other things) under almost any set of conditions. If you throw a biodegradable container on your front lawn, you’ll have nothing left but soil in a few months. Compostable products will only biodegrade under compost conditions. That means that if you throw a compostable product on your lawn, it’ll still be there months later. When selecting products, look for those that are biodegradable, but if you choose compostables, be sure to let your staff and customers know that those products will need to be composted. Also make sure the products you buy are BPI-certified so you know they are truly green.

Cost concerns

At the moment it’s still likely that these green alternatives will cost slightly more than regular plastic options. So why choose to go green? In addition to the environmental benefits, offering green products is a great way to connect with customers who want to support a business that meets their eco-friendly ideals. A customer who comes back again and again because they value your commitment to the environment is a customer you’re going to keep.

This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Your Green Business and was tagged with bagasse, COMPOSTABLE, ecofriendly, green take out, PLA, RECYCLED-UPCYCLED, SUSTAINABLE, taterware


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Green Home is the original online ecostore, based in San Francisco, California, in the heart of both the environmental and cleantech industries. Since 1999 Greenhome.com has played its part as one of the most comprehensive online resources for greening your home and greening your business. Our company is on a mission to green the world, one person (and one business) at a time. While all of our products are eco-friendly, we are especially passionate about compostable plates, cups, bowls, cutlery & utensils, take out containers and bags.  If more businesses and individuals switched from disposable to compostable we could make a real impact on the world!

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