Workplace Lunches

At my workplace, we get lunch ordered in 2 days a week, mostly by the same caterer. I admit that I never really noticed before my conscious decision to go green, that he always sends us styrofoam plates along with the bottled water and soda cans that have been ordered. I figured that this was a potential tweak!
styrofoam & plastic…………500 years+!
aluminum can………………80-100 years
paper…………………………2-5 months
Now, the plastic and aluminum cans are recyclable but it’d be better to just avoid using them in the first place. I had never paid much attention before of the credo REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE. I guess the best thing is to reduce So we’re going to stop ordering the drinks. Instead, we’ll serve pitchers of ice water, maybe even a carafe of coffee, but no more bottled water or canned drinks, ever.
Styrofoam plates are not recyclable so we pretty easily convinced the caterer to switch to paper plates.
We’re switching to compostable cutlery too. I’ve used these at home when I’ve thrown big dinner parties and they’re actually sturdier than the flimsy plastic this caterer sends anyway. They’re definitely more costly, but, I found some on Amazon for 7 cents a piece.
What I Learned
These are made with Crystalized Poly Lactic Acid (PLA), a biodegradable thermoplastic derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch. Producing PLA uses 65% less energy than producing conventional plastics. It also generates 68% fewer greenhouse gases, and contains no toxins. PLA is said to decompose into carbon dioxide and water in a “controlled composting environment” in fewer than 90 days. This is ok in Toronto where we have industrialized composting run by the municipality, but if you live somewhere that does not have this, unfortunately if you throw these into your backyard compost bin, they’ll take a long time to break down.
The other issue is that while they can go into the municipal compost bin at home, we don’t have compost bins at work. (A future tweak maybe?) Many products that are biodegradable will not biodegrade when we place them in landfills, because the artificial landfill environment lacks the light, water and bacterial activity required for the decay process to begin. Overall, though, they’re still a better choice than plastic and won’t leech toxic chemicals into the groundwater.
Expected Result
We’ll be saving 30 cans or bottles, plastic knives and forks, and styrofoam plates per week for 50 weeks per year.
Result=save 1500 cans/bottles from recycling +1500 plastic knives+1500 forks + 1500 styrofoam plates from the landfill per year. 
And that’s for one small group’s lunch 2 days a week! I have no idea where all that garbage has been going. Won’t you join me and have a look at the lunches at your workplace? So far, no one has complained and everyone’s all for it. They just needed that one person to pay attention and spend a few minutes making the tweaks that were needed.

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