Raise a Fork to Raising Standards! Wooden Cutlery is Coming
You, the members, have told us you want to see less plastic in the store and we heard you! The Kootenay Co-op now provides take-out cutlery made of compressed birch pulp instead of disposable plastic. There are many ways to reduce your plastic consumption and this is another!
Here’s what you need to know:
- Plastic cutlery will be available until it runs out, after which point, we will only offer birch cutlery for take-out.
- Each piece of birch cutlery will cost $0.10 each ($0.30 for fork, spoon, and knife).
- Plastic cutlery dispensers will be removed – pick up your cutlery from at the cash register.
Why are we phasing out plastic cutlery?
- Plastic is bad for the environment and our health.
- Plastic is oil-intensive to create in the first place and if it’s recyclable, it’s energy-intensive to recycle (consider even just the transportation emissions getting it where it needs to go).
- Plastic is non-biodegradable. It breaks down eventually, but just into smaller and smaller pieces that then leach chemicals into food, water and air.
- Toxic chemicals in plastic can disrupt hormones, cause cancer, and/or interfere with physical development of babies and children.
- Plastic pollution is collecting in our planet’s bodies of water and ending up in the bodies of wildlife, contributing to the endangerment and potential extinction of a number of at-risk species.
- Birch trees are quick to reach harvest maturity (they grow fast!) and can readily colonize open terrain or woodland systems (birch is monoecious meaning it doesn’t need pollination to expand its population), making it ultra-renewable!
- Birch is a native plant and already grows abundantly in Canada. Additionally, it has been largely underutilized by the pulp and paper industry (mainly because of high sugar content).
- Birch cutlery will biodegrade and will not poison the natural world that it comes into contact with.
- Why not bio-plastics? “Bio-degradable” plastics are often made from plant derivatives, but they’re not very bio-degradable. In order to break down, they have very specific heat and moisture requirements, usually only available in commercial composting facilities. Our region does not yet have commercial composting, so compostable cutlery simply isn’t compostable.
Our region does not yet have commercial composting, so compostable cutlery simply isn’t compostable.
- If not properly composted, bioplastics can end up in one of three places: landfills, releasing greenhouse gases contributing to climate change; recycling facilities, contaminating the plastic destined to be remade into new items; or litter, with the potential to end up in the stomachs of wildlife, contributing to species endangerment and/or extinction. One more objection to bioplastics is that growing the plants to turn into single-use plastics takes valuable agricultural land away from producing food (blegh).
- Why not bamboo? The bamboo cutlery we tried was quite splintery and not pleasant to eat from.
- Why charge for the cutlery? The cost of the cutlery allows us to recover the cost as well as to create of an incentive to choose less disposable cutlery. Members can eat in the store, bring their own cutlery, or bring food home to eat. The birch cutlery can be used several times and composts readily, but it is still better for the planet to use metal cutlery that can be washed and reused many thousands of times.
What can I do?
Switching from plastic to birch take-out cutlery is a big step forward, but it’s not a perfect solution. It still involves putting a lot of resources into something that will be used only a few times at best. To go a step further, you can:
- Eat in our café and use the metal cutlery we have here
- Bring your take-out all the way home or back to work and use your own eating utensils,
- Bring a fork with you! Make or buy a travel utensil kit (consider including fork, knife, spook, chopsticks, and a cloth napkin)
Here among Co-op staff, many of us keep cutlery in our purses, panniers, glove boxes, backpacks or at our desks so that we may be prepared for all our lunchy needs. We are currently sourcing a travel utensil kit that meets our standards, so be on the lookout for that soon!
Thank you for actively participating in your member-owned Co-op by holding us to a high standard. Our staff is fortunate to have member support and encouragement to research and source the best possible solution for this beautiful but messy and complicated world that we live in.