Compostable Utensils Made From Cornstarch

A company has developed compostable silverware made from cornstarch, and a zoo is on the cutting edge of the cutlery composting movement.
By Sam Martin
August/September 1999
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These utensils will compost in about 30 to 40 days.

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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.

Post a comment below.


7/24/2008 3:41:22 PM
I actually used one of the Biocorp forks for the first time last night and was amazed at the fact that I could throw it in my compost. But also, silverware is only called so because it is either made of silver or silver plated, anything else is usually called "flatwear". Maybe if they coated the Biocorp stuff in silver we could all turn blue from putting more silver in our bodies...

7/24/2008 1:49:41 PM
I've heard of this before, my fiancee actually found some plates made of cornstarch and limestone. Just as durable as styrafoam, and looks like it too, but it decomposed in our compost just fine. It will be nice when this sort of thing is more mainstream. As far as posters critiqing the article, lets not be so picky! Kleenex is really tissue paper and ipods are MP3 players. Its all about branding. The silverware in my house is made of stainless steel, that doesn't make it stainless steel ware does it?

11/21/2007 12:39:49 PM
interesting article, good development. Typical poor education of a journalist: "Biocorp USA has developed decomposing silverware made from cornstarch." This is called utensils, or tableware or flatware. Silverware is made from Silver!

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