“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Biodegrade and Compost”. While this extended version of the phrase isn’t as catchy, it is a better way to look at things. To help you understand the difference, let’s look at the Styrofoam clamshell style containers and cups you typically get when ordering take-out food.
Styrofoam clamshells and cups, made of toxic petroleum based chemicals, are seldom recyclable once they are covered in food and are not biodegradable or compostable regardless of the symbols on the bottom. While recycling prevents the waste of useful materials, the reality is that it is cheaper to use the new supply than to reconstitute the used product. Once in the landfill, Styrofoam takes hundreds of years to degrade because it cannot be broken back down into natural matter by organisms such as bacteria that do this naturally and reused as compost, natural fertilizer, to grow more resources. According to the EPA website Americans will throw away 25,000,000,000 (25 TRILLION) Styrofoam coffee cups this year that will still be in landfills around the world in 500 years. This has become a global problem because we Americans make so much trash that we now export it to foreign countries.
Biodegradable products are a better solution because these products can be converted back into their natural elements easily. One option is a biodegradable clamshell box made of natural plant and vegetable fibers that breaks back down to natural elements within months. Most are made of the fibrous materials from corn and the sugar cane fiber called Bagasse, a renewable resource that only takes a year to grow.
A moment on the lips, in the case of Styrofoam, equals 7 lifetimes in local and global landfills. Please encourage your favorite local restaurants to make the switch and support the greening of our local and global communities.