written by: Vandana Singhal•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 9/15/2010
In this age of global warming, it becomes our responsibility to become eco-conscious. It is time to switch over to natural practices and natural products in whatever way we can. Using compostable lunch trays is a great step in this direction.
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The use of disposable lunch trays is increasing very fast as eating out is a necessity for many people. Using Styrofoam lunch trays is an easy and cost-effective option. However, people are waking up to the fact that these Styrofoam lunch trays are creating tons of non-degradable waste annually. Many countries, especially the USA, have started working on eco-friendly alternatives for these Styrofoam lunch trays. Luckily, there are lots of options already available in the market that are good for business and eco-friendly too.
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Compostable Lunch Trays made from Bagasse
One of the most popular materials used for making compostable 5 compartment trays is baggase. Bagasse is a by-product obtained from the sugar refining process. Bagasse is the sugarcane fiber that is left over after sugarcane stalks are crushed to extract the juice. This by-product can be easily converted into several products which are, typically, made from paper or plastic. The most interesting thing about bagasse lunch trays is that they are easily absorbed back into the ecosystem because they are made from natural material. Moreover, it is an annually renewable product . Use of bagasse to make compostable dishes also avoids the pollution which occurs due to the burning of leftover sugarcane pulp. These compostable lunch trays can biodegrade within a month in commercial composting.
Potato starch is also used for making compostable lunch trays. It is a sturdy and fully biodegradable material which can bear heat up to 300°F. These trays are suitable for hot and cold foods. In addition, they are freezer safe, microwave compatible, leak proof, and resist grease and cuts. Potato starch is used for making a potato resin. The process used to make this resin is similar to the process of making plastic except the material used is natural and biodegradable. As this is fully biodegradable, these lunch trays will easily break down into carbon dioxide and water at a specific temperature and moisture.
Cornstarch is one more option for making compostable 5 compartment trays and other dishes. Lactic acid, obtained from corn fermentation, is used for making Polylactide (PLA). PLA behaves like regular plastic except for the fact that it is fully biodegradable. A lower-grade corn is used for making PLA. These trays take about 180 days to get composted. However, people with a corn allergy may not find them suitable as some corn residue may enter the foodstuff.
Besides corn and potato, the starch from rice, wheat and tapioca are also used for making compostable lunch trays.
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Compostable Lunch Trays Made from Leaves
Tree leaves are an interesting natural material for making compostable lunch trays. The leaves and vines of some specific trees are sewn together to make ecologically safe and sustainable dishes such as lunch trays, bowls and plates. Before use, these trays are hygienically cleaned and herbally treated. It was an ancient practice performed in South Asia and South East Asia. These are 100% biodegradable dishes.
Image Credit: eatitworld.com/forestware2.html
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Disposing of Compostable Lunch Trays
Though using compostable lunch trays is a good effort to protect your environment, it is important to understand the ways to dispose of them. If these trays are put in trash like other paper dishes, they will gather in landfills and will not decompose.