Edible Bowls and Plates Could Take a Bite out of Plastic Waste

When the bowl tastes as good as the Cap’n Crunch (or the soup, salad or fruit) it contains, the world has moved one step closer to reducing plastic waste. And a startup in South Africa has made that a real possibility.

Munch Bowls, founded in 2014 by artist/entrepreneur Georgina de Kock, offers edible, biodegradable, single-use bowls and saucers made from wheat. The bowls have a shelf life of 15 months or longer and can hold any foods, including hot soups, for more than five hours, the company’s website states.

Related: This bioplastics entrepreneur is helping save the world from plastic waste.

According to CNN, the edible bowls were originally made by hand but can now be mass-produced. “I was looking around and just noticing all the rubble that is created by us humans, and it really started irritating me,” de Kock told CNN. “Whatever you can put on a plate, you can put in the bowl. It’s the perfect size to hold in your hand.”

this photo shows a young woman eating food from an edible bowl

Edible bowls and plates from companies like Munch Bowls could help reduce single-use plastic waste created by restaurants that offer carryout foods.

Munch Bowls sells its edible bowls to hotels and companies in the hospitality industry in South Africa, Belgium, Singapore and Dubai. They sell at a wholesale price of 33 cents apiece, which is a little more expensive than plastic food containers, but, unlike the latter, the dinnerware can be eaten as part of the meal.

The Burn-In reports that de Kock recently took on a new partner and hopes to open six new production lines in 2020. Other items to be offered include coffee cups, spoons and in-flight meal containers.

Related: The world’s top plastic polluters say they will join the fight to reduce plastic waste.

Munch Bowls isn’t the first company to provide edible dinnerware. Polish entrepreneur Jerzy Wysocki, founder of Biotrem, invented a process to manufacture edible plates, bowls and cutlery out of wheat bran more than 15 years ago. Biotrem now makes about 15 million edible, biobased plates each year, along with cutlery made from fully biodegradable PLA bioplastic and wheat bran. In an interview with earlier this year, Wysocki said edible dinnerware can also be made out of corn, barley, oats, cassava and algae.

Biotrem has even gotten a boost in exposure from the new Netflix series, “The Witcher.” According to Biotrem’s Instagram page, the series, which is filmed in Poland, has featured the company’s edible plates and bowls in scenes that depict the series’ “witcher schools.”

Meanwhile, reports that researchers at Gdansk University of Technology has developed edible cutlery made with potato starch. One of those researchers, Professor Helena Janik, noted that these forks, spoons and knives can be safely eaten by sea creatures as well. “We are the only ones so far to have tested the biodegradability of our products on living aquatic organisms, and it looks like this cutlery is safe for the environment,” she said.

The demand for edible plates and bowls should rise dramatically when the European Union’s ban on plastic plates and cutlery goes into effect in 2021. And as production ramps up to meet the growing demand, pricing is expected to come down.

The World’s Top Plastic Polluters Say They Will Join Fight to Reduce Waste

Coca-Cola is a leading contributor to the global plastic pollution crisis, but now the company says it wants to help solve the plastic-waste problem.

Branded the world’s “most prolific polluter” by Greenpeace last year, Coca-Cola has promised to reduce its contribution to plastic waste, but it won’t give up its addiction to plastic entirely.

After admitting to generating 3.3 million tons of plastic in 2017 alone, the soft drink/water bottler announced in August that it will unveil new packaging, including aluminum cans and bottles, for its Dasani brand of water, according to CNN. Coca-Cola said it will continue to sell Dasani in plastic bottles, too, but the amount of plastic will be reduced through a process called lightweighting.

Coca-Cola says it will also introduce a new type of hybrid bottle consisting of 50 percent recycled plastic and renewable plant materials.

During beach cleanups in 42 countries, Greenpeace conducted “brand audits” to identify companies that contributed to plastic pollution. Leading the list was Coca-Cola, followed by PepsiCo, Nestle, Danone, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Incorporated and Colgate-Palmolive. The top three companies alone accounted for 14 percent of the “branded plastic pollution” around the world, according to Greenpeace’s “Break Free From Plastic” report.

Greenpeace notes that recycling “is not a feasible solution to the plastic pollution crisis.” Many of the recovered pieces of plastic collected in the cleanups were plastics “that are very difficult or impossible to recycle in most places around the world.” These include polystyrene (PS), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), single-layer plastic film (SL) and multilayer plastic bonded materials. Other collected materials, such as cigarette butts, textiles, diapers and sanitary napkins, can’t be recycled at all.

“Multilayer materials—a mixture of plastic and other materials bonded together in layers—are especially pernicious,” the Greenpeace report notes. “These packaging types are common in the form of snack and potato chip bags, shelf-stable packaging and juice pouches.”

“We cannot recycle our way out of this plastic pollution crisis,” the report stated. “We must recognize the responsibilities of corporations and plastic producers to innovate and implement whole-system redesign to make the use of plastic packaging unnecessary.”

this photo shows the rising popularity of refillable water bottles in response to the plastic pollution crisis

In response to the plastic pollution crisis, more people are choosing to use refillable water bottles, prompting a change in policy at major bottled-water brands like Dasani. (Photo from Plastic Pollution Coalition)

The report noted that even when companies use recyclable plastic in their packaging, most of the plastic never actually gets recycled. Bottles made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) may be recyclable, but most of them end up in the trash anyway. One analysis found that “we are producing more than 1 million PET bottles per minute worldwide.” That amounts to more than 525 billion bottles per year, although those estimates are three years old and the number has likely grown since then.

Coca-Cola says it’s “ready to do our part” to reduce plastic waste. As CNN reports, it has promised to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells by 2030. It has also committed to making its bottles and cans out of at least 50 percent recycled material by that same year.

PepsiCo, meanwhile, also seems to be getting the message. The No. 2 soft-drink company said it will start selling its Aquafina water in aluminum cans at fast food and restaurant chains by 2020. It’s also reportedly testing a broader rollout of the aluminum packaging to retail stores.

In another promising move, both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo announced earlier this year that they were withdrawing from the Plastics Industry Association, a major plastics lobbying group. Both companies, along with Nestle, Unilever and Mars, Incorporated, have also signed on to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, meant to address plastic waste and pollution at its source.

For brands like Dasani, a move to more sustainable packaging might be a necessity, especially as many environmentally conscious consumers make the move to refillable water containers instead of buying water in plastic bottles. “We really think about the future of this brand differentiating on sustainability credentials,” Dasani’s brand director, Lauren King, told CNN.


Zero-Waste for Beginners: 15 No-Hassle Tips to Get You Started

Kamikatsu, a tiny village of 1,500 souls in western Japan, has set a big goal for itself: Going zero-waste by 2020. And although residents have gotten close—they recycled about 80 percent of the 286 tons of waste they produced in 2017, according to—it hasn’t been easy.

The villagers have to divide their rubbish into 45 different categories and wash and dry all plastic bags and bottles before they can be recycled. A discarded cabinet or shelf has to be broken up to divide the wood from the metal. And the local government provides no garbage collection for the waste that can’t be recycled—the residents have to transport it themselves to a local facility.

Could other towns follow Kamikatsu’s example? Maybe, but, then again, maybe not. As one resident told, “It works because we’re only 1,500 people here. It would be difficult in a big town with a larger population.”

Still, environmentally minded individuals worldwide are striving to live a zero-waste lifestyle, and there are steps that anyone can take to get there. Here are a few of them:

1. Bid Adieu to Dish Sponges. Sponges collect germs quickly and have to be replaced often. And they’re not compostable or biodegradable, either, so to heck with ’em. Swap sponges out for plastic-free dish-washing brushes with plant-based bristles and compostable brush heads. They work just as well, and they’re not a curse on future generations.

this photo illustrates the need for zero waste for beginners

Zero waste for beginners starts with reducing plastic waste.

2. Pass on Plastic. And we’re not just talking plastic straws, although, yes, definitely say no to plastic straws. According to the Zero Waste Bloggers Network, the average American family takes home 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year! Worldwide, consumers use an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags. Egads! And the vast majority of these bags will never be recycled, so there’s that to be depressed about. But the remedy is simple and quite practical: Switch to reusable grocery bags for your shopping, including washable, reusable mesh bags for your produce, and purchase a refillable water bottle. For storing food, use glass and stainless-steel containers instead of plastic. (More about that later.)

3. Reuse Those Ziploc Bags. You say you’ve already got a pantry full of plastic baggies, and you’re so embarrassed? It’s OK. You can at least reuse them rather than toss them in the trash. Simply fill a used bag with warm, soapy water, clean it out and hang it up to dry. It’s not ideal, but at least you’re getting multiple uses out of a single-use plastic product.

4. Quit Wasting Food. Yes, people are starving in Africa, like your mom always told you. So quit throwing away perfectly good food! You can start by cooking and eating only what you and your family need, including produce with a limited shelf life. Stick to your shopping list at the grocery store and avoid impulse purchases on food you might never actually eat. Compost everything you can, including coffee grounds, fruits and veggies that have gone bad, eggshells and tea bags. If you can’t compost it yourself, freeze it and take it a local farmers market or to a friend who has a garden.

5. Buy in Bulk. Why buy a dozen tiny boxes of raisins (wrapped together in plastic) if you can buy them in bulk and cut back on packaging that needs to be thrown out? Check out your supermarket’s bulk bins for everything from pasta and rice to nuts, flour and dried fruit. Some stores will even let you bring in your own container. And if your store doesn’t have bulk bins, talk to the manager or owner.

this photo illustrates the availability of reusable food containers

Crystal Dreisbach and her team at GreenToGo in Durham, North Carolina, offer a reusable food container service for area restaurants and customers.

6. Invest in a lunchbox. Restaurants tempt us with the convenience of grab-and-go sandwiches and salads with plastic forks and spoons, but disposable lunches generate 100 pounds of trash per person each year. Wrap that ham-on-rye in a cloth sandwich bag and bring your own lunch in a reusable lunchbox instead. Bring your own non-plastic cutlery, too. And if you’re still craving that Caesar salad from your local eatery, talk to the manager/owner and urge them to invest in reusable carryout containers.

Related: This reusable food container service makes it easier for restaurants to kick the Styrofoam habit.

7. Cut Out the Fast Food! Cook at home as much as you can. Fast food means all kinds of wasteful wrapping and containers, from tiny little ketchup packets to beverage cups and burger wrappers. And you know fast food is bad for you anyway. So your belly and thighs will thank you, and Mother Nature will thank you.

Glass jars can be reused for both practical and decorative purposes.

8. Don’t Throw Out Glass Jars. Save them for re-use; as long as you’re not fumble-fingered and prone to dropping them, they’ll last forever. You can use them for food storage (including packing your own lunch for work or school), as cookie/candy jars, or to store non-food items like toothbrushes, pens or spare change. You can also use the smaller ones as water glasses!

9. Speaking of Toothbrushes…Most of us go through several plastic toothbrushes a year. Trade that cheapo toothbrush for one made of bamboo—it might cost a little more, but you’ll get your money’s worth and a lot more.

10. Go Vintage Va-Va-Voom. So you always want to look your best, but you know that “fast fashion” is soooo 2018? Many zero-wasters now buy only second-hand and vintage clothing. You can always find a second-hand clothing store in your area, and some of them are actually social enterprises that serve a good cause while making money. Additionally, many retailers, both online and maybe in your hometown, specialize in sustainable fashion, and a lot of their stuff is pretty amazing. Otherwise, at least buy new clothing made from materials—such as cotton, cashmere, wool and silk—that will naturally decompose.

Related: From Kalkota to Manhattan, Brown Boy leads a sustainable fashion revolution.

11. Do You Really Need That Book? Here’s another tip for sustainability that you might not have thought about. No offense to all you bookworms, but you don’t have to buy every book you want to read. There is still such a thing as a public library, and they still let you borrow books for free. If you’re taking a course, try to find a digital version of the textbook.

12. Look for Eco-Friendly Cosmetics. You can look gorgeous and still protect the environment. There are some zero-waste cosmetic brands on the market, and their number is, thankfully, growing. But in the meantime, remove your makeup with reusable cotton pads instead of disposable makeup wipes. The pads can be thrown in the wash with the rest of your laundry.

this photo illustrates how plastic shampoo bottles can be replaced by shampoo bars in your zero-waste efforts

Based in Canada, EarthSuds is a zero-waste-friendly company that aims to eliminate the 5.7 billion plastic toiletry bottles used by hotels in Canada and the U.S. every year.

13. Switch to Shampoo and Conditioner Bars. They look like bars of soap, but they work like any shampoo or conditioner. Just get the bar wet in the shower, rub it in your wet hair, and it will produce a great lather. And now you can say so long to those big plastic bottles. And while we’re on the subject, quit buying those fru-fru plastic bottles of hand soap! No mas, no mas! They don’t clean any better than regular soap bars, and they’re just one more plastic problem for future generations to deal with.

Related: This student entrepreneur has developed shampoo tablets that could replace single-use plastic bottles used by hotels

14. Discover the Wonders of Baking Soda. You might never actually bake with it, but that’s OK because baking soda has a myriad of other uses that align perfectly with a zero-waste lifestyle. You can use it as toothpaste, detergent for your laundry and kitchen utensils, even as a deodorant.

15. Turn Old Clothes into Cleaning Rags. Old worn-out T-shirts, towels, work shirts—even your underwear—can be repurposed as cleaning rags, especially those made of natural fibers. Cut your worn-out shirts into squares or strips or turn them into handkerchiefs. These old rags even make great baby wipes—just cut them into 5”x5” squares and use them to wipe your toddler’s spaghetti-splattered face (or your husband’s, as the case may be).

Sullivan Field Trip Offers Whirlwind Trip to At Least Seven Social Enterprises

Seven social-enterprise businesses have already been lined up for the Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming Social Entrepreneurship Field Trip to Raleigh, North Carolina, and more are in the works, according to organizer Harrison Wood.

The field trip takes place Sept. 13-15, 2019. For a rate of $119 per room, partner schools can use this link to book rooms for their attending students at the Holiday Inn Raleigh Downtown, located at 320 Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. To book by phone, they can call 855-914-1878 and reference Block ID “SUL.” Schools must book the group-block rooms by August 27.

Click here now to sign up for the field trip. The deadline to register is Sept. 2.

Students with an interest in social entrepreneurship will meet and learn from owners of a wide variety of businesses with a focus on social impact. Many of them are triple-bottom-line businesses – they generate a profit while also addressing a social need and benefiting the environment. These social enterprises include:

HQ Raleigh—Launched in 2012, this co-working community fosters entrepreneurship and collaboration. It has helped launch 500 start-ups in Raleigh, according to the company website. At its Warehouse District Location, HQ Raleigh creates a “collaborative environment that empowers high-impact, high-growth entrepreneurs to create purpose-driven businesses that leave the world better than they found it.”

Picture shows a selection of Reborn Clothing items for sale

Reborn Clothing creates an upcycling option for old clothes in your closet.

Reborn Clothing Co.—Emily Neville started Reborn Clothing as a sophomore at North Carolina State University to give consumers an upcycling option for their clothes and to reduce textile waste. The company takes used garments and repurposes them into new, useful items, including baby blankets, throw pillows, dog bandanas and more. Visitors to Reborn’s website can also purchase upcycled items made from scraps from the manufacturing process. These range from duffel bags and makeup cases to keychains, earrings and scrunchies.

CompostNow—This social business helps reduce waste by collecting food scraps from residents and businesses and turning it into compost for gardens. Customers receive a bin that can be filled up with any food scraps, pizza boxes, coffee grounds and paper products. CompostNow picks up the filled bin and replaces it with a clean one on each service day. Customers can use the resulting compost in their own gardens or donate it to farms and community gardens in the region. The company’s clients include individual households, restaurants and business offices.

this photo shows how young people are interested in composting

Volunteers spend some time creating compost for CompostNow.

A Place at the Table—This pay-what-you-can, breakfast-and-lunch café opened in downtown Raleigh in January 2018. A Place at the Table provides healthy food and community for anyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Payment options include paying the suggested price; paying at least half of the suggested price; or volunteering with the restaurant. Tips go to furthering A Place at the Table’s mission, and customers can also purchase $10 tokens to pass out in the community.

Carroll’s Kitchen—This foodservice social enterprise in Downtown Raleigh provides employment for women recovering from homelessness, incarceration, addiction and domestic violence. The Carroll’s Kitchen menu features contemporary comfort food in catering and grab-and-go services. Artisan items include mushroom toast and avocado toast for brunch, the Sausage & Roasted Pepper Quiche, seasonal soups, salads, and sandwiches such as the BBQ Meatloaf, the Pressed Roast Beef Wrap and the Turkey Brie, among others.

this photo shows the attractive GreenToGo packaging

GreenToGo containers can replace up to 1,000 single-use styrofoam boxes.

Don’t Waste Durham/GreenToGo—Crystal Dreisbach is leading a campaign to significantly reduce plastic and paper waste in Durham with these two operations. Through Don’t Waste Durham, she has proposed a new ordinance, recently endorsed by the city’s Environmental Affairs Board, that would impose a 10-cent fee on plastic and paper bags at retail stores, restaurants and grocery stores in Durham. She also founded GreenToGo, a reusable to-go container service for restaurant customers. GTG’s reusable carryout box has a spill-proof, durable design, and one box replaces at least 1,000 single-use Styrofoam boxes.

Bee Downtown—Founded by fourth-generation beekeeper Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, Bee Downtown installs and maintains beehives on corporate campuses in urban areas, helping to rebuild honey bee populations while providing turnkey, year-round employee engagement and leadership development programming to its partners. Clients have included AT&T, Chick-Fil-A and Delta Airlines.

this photo shows honey bees in action

Bee Downtown uses honey bees to teach leadership while also benefiting the environment.