Sunday, July 30, 2006

EarthShell's Biodegradeable Tableware

Regular readers know I don't do many product reviews or summaries -- not my favorite kind of post, and others (such as several of my Treehugger colleagues) do them much better. Still, I was happy to receive a press kit and samples from the EarthShell Corporation, which distributes its EarthShell Packaging line of disposable 9" plates and 12 ounce bowls. With a number of cities, particularly on the West Coast, now banning styrofoam, and consumers paying attention to what they throw away, EarthShell's created an impressive product.

According to the materials they sent me, the company and its suppliers (ReNewable Products, Inc. of Lebanon, MO, and EarthShell Hidalgo in Mexico), the plates and bowls are made from the following materials:
  • Limestone
  • Natural starches from potatoes and corn
  • Fiber
  • Biodegradeable/compostable coatings
  • Water
A person using these items can rinse them off and throw them in the compost pile. Equally impressive is the life cycle of the products, which has been certified by Franklin Associates Ltd. as
  • Consuming less total energy to produce (then a comparable product, I assume)
  • Using less fossil fuels to produce
  • Producing lower greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • Producing lower amounts of a wide variety of air and water emissions.
After looking at the products themselves, they certainly look and feel as usable as any other disposable tableware -- they're quite sturdy, allowing for heaping up the food at those summer barbecues and picnics. While their press materials lead me to believe that the company sees the food service sector as its main market (and makes products, such as foam clamshells, for this market), they do sell the plates and bowls at grocery chains around the country, including St. Louis-based Schnuck's, Sam's Clubs in Illinois and Indiana, and others. The products launched this Spring, and seem to be catching on quickly.

I'll certainly look for these, as I hate using purely disposable products (though they're awfully convenient). Let's hope others feel the need to compete in this particular product niche.

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