So what if products coming to the market were not only compostable, meaning they become a value-adding part of the life cycle, but were also renewable? They could be made out of completely renewable resources like unused wheat chaff or discarded sugar cane rather than plastic or petroleum products, which deplete non-renewable resources. What if this new market generated new jobs for farmers, took less energy to manufacture and created a market for a versatile crop grown on previously unused land? It would support natural habitats and create healthier soil – then universities and large proactive companies like Google and Facebook would hop on board?
As you can probably guess, this is already happening. I had the pleasure of a long phone interview with Mark Marinozzi, VP of marketing for worldcentric.org, an extremely involved and proactive company invested in promoting sustainable packaging as well as other programs that have stemmed from this endeavor. Here are some edited excerpts of our conversation:
KJ: Is the market for sustainable/disposable food packaging growing?
MM: Yes! The market is growing significantly due to demand from consumers, active corporate Social Responsibility teams and Sustainability mavens. We are seeing colleges, universities and hospitals, as well as large and small businesses steering away from petroleum-based, plastic and Styrofoam food storage containers. The cost of producing environmentally friendly products has dropped now that we have the technology to utilize plant fibers to create new lines of compostable, disposable products. Thousands of varieties of plants have been identified around the world that can serve this purpose. Many of them are hardy and grow in poor soil with little water, creating an excellent opportunity to bring new value to previously underutilized areas. At the same time they capture carbon, which is good for the environment, have great root systems, which improve soil and have the right kind of cellulose for the manufacture of plates, bowls and “clam shell” containers for carry out food.
The University of California system, Google, Facebook campuses, hospital chains, and restaurants are coming around to the awareness that food packages are filling up our landfills and increasing garbage pick-up rates. They realize that composted materials can be sold for landscaping and to garden stores. Besides being the “right thing to do,” there are social and economic benefits to making this choice. Businesses and customers wind up happier.
KJ: So, what can people do on an individual level?
MM: Realize that compostable dishware and containers are available. They are on the shelves for bulk purchase at Costco as well as grocery store chains like Whole Foods. Look for local restaurants that may already be using them. If your community does not collect compostable materials yet, mention it to your politicians. 75% of us are not actively composting. That represents a huge amount of otherwise valuable material going to real waste in a landfill. There are jobs to be had and money to be saved by embracing these new products.
We also donate 25% of our profits to global relief organizations. To see what we are doing, please visit our website worldcentric.org, click on the link for Sustainability and see the link on the right for “Giving.”