It seems Vancouver eateries can’t move fast enough to keep up with the latest food trend: compostable packaging. Potato-based cutlery, plastic packaging made from corn fibre, recycled to-go boxes—our local snack shops are on the fast track to sustainability.
But debates are brewing over how green these initiatives really are. Capers Community Markets, for example, has been touting its corn-based alternative to plastic packaging since 2004, but marketing manager Aron Bjornson admits that biodegradable isn’t always the best option. Although Capers’ “corntainers” (pictured) are biodegradable, that doesn’t mean you can toss them in your backyard and wait for the worms to do their thing. In fact, they’ll only break down properly in an industrial composter. So unless customers bring them back to Capers, Bjornson explains, recyclable plastic may in fact be the better option.
Aspenware Inc. is a B.C. manufacturer touting the benefits of its Wun cutlery, manufactured from aspen, a fast-growing tree. Bjornson says it’s a great idea, but Capers is holding off on adopting wood cutlery until some bugs are worked out of the manufacturing process.
Susanna Carson at BSI Biodegradable Solutions is a wholesale distributor of biodegradable packaging. She admits the industry is still very young, but she’s excited about the prospects. “You can always find argument with any of these products,” Carson points out. “But the potential for it to become sustainable is there.”