Picnickers and barbecuers around the country sent over 90 billion pieces of nonbiodegradable plastic utensils, plates and cups to the nation's landfills in 1998, leaving them to decompose for the next century. Unfortunately, plastic can't go into your backyard compost. Or can it?
In the past year the California-based company Biocorp USA has introduced biodegradable plastic bags and compostable utensils to U.S. schools, zoos and fast-food restaurants in an attempt to ease the burden on the country's landfills, while saving substantial amounts of money in tipping fees and debagging costs. Biocorp's "reSourceBags" and "reSourceWares" retain the same feel and durability as their predecessors, but they decompose in 30 to 40 days in any normal yard compost.
Given that the average plastic fork is used for a mere three minutes before getting tossed in the garbage—where it will spend the next 100 or so years—this new technology couldn't be more welcome.
As part of their market research, Biocorp began a short-term pilot project in April with Chicago's Brookfield Zoo, where conservation concerns launched a state-of-the-art, odor-free composting facility in 1997. The "reSourceWare" compostable utensils will be used in all 15 of the zoo's restaurants, then ground up and recycled into the composting facility before being used as natural fertilizer for the zoo grounds. The entire process will take 60 days.
Although the Brookfield Zoo is the first major venue to accept Biocorp's green products in the U.S., the idea has already taken off in Europe, where less space has sped up concerns about traditional landfills. In fact, biodegradable utensils were used at the World Ski Championships in Austria last February and McDonald's restaurants in Austria and Sweden have started using Biocorp's cornstarch cutlery. Green Mickey D's? Maybe we are going in the right direction.