Making the Switch: Your Guide to Biodegradable Cutlery for the Office Breakroom

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The breakroom is the hub of office life – where coworkers gather to grab coffee, heat up lunch, or quickly scarf down a snack between meetings. And with all that eating and drinking comes a whole lot of disposable cutlery being tossed out each day. The environmental impact of so many plastic forks, knives, and spoons adds up quickly. That’s why more offices are looking to cut down on waste by switching to biodegradable cutlery options for their breakrooms.

But with so many choices out there, it can be tricky to figure out which eco-friendly cutlery is right for your office needs and budget. Should you go for a premium compostable line or cheaper wooden cutlery? Do you need cutlery strong enough to stab a juicy steak or just scoop up some salad? By considering factors like durability, design, price, decomposition, and food safety, you can zero in on the best biodegradable cutlery for your office.

In this guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about choosing biodegradable breakroom cutlery, from key criteria to weigh to reviews of our top five recommended products. We’ll also bust some common myths about eco-friendly cutlery and give tips for making a smooth transition from plastic to greener options. Let’s dive in!

Key Factors to Consider For Biodegradable Office Cutlery

Biodegradable cutlery has come a long way from flimsy options that would snap under pressure. Many compostable forks and spoons now rival the durability and look of regular plasticware. But not all eco-friendly cutlery is created equal. Here are the key factors to help you pick options that will stand up to daily office use.

Durability is Critical for Regular Office Functions

For biodegradable office cutlery, durability is one of the most crucial features. It needs to hold up well for everyday tasks like stirring coffee, scooping up salads, and piercing juicy burger patties. Cheap eco-friendly cutlery that easily snaps, bends, or shatters will frustrate employees and create unnecessary waste.

Look for thick, sturdy materials that approximate the toughness of regular plastic cutlery. Many compostable cutlery options derived from renewable materials like PLA, bagasse, or wheat straw can rival the strength of traditional petroleum-based plastic. Be sure to get samples to test durability before ordering in bulk.

Consider Both Form and Function in Cutlery Design

Beyond just durability, the design of biodegradable cutlery also deserves consideration. Look for ergonomic shapes and styles that feel comfortable and natural to grip and use. For instance, curved handles on forks and spoons make scooping motions easy.

You can also choose cutlery lines that come in lively colors or nature-inspired hues to bring visual appeal to the breakroom. Custom printing or embossing offers another way to boost office morale with cutlery sporting company logos or slogans. Just be sure any added inks and finishes meet eco-standards too.

Compare the Pros and Cons of Different Biodegradable Materials

Biodegradable cutlery today comes in a wide range of materials, each with their own characteristics:

  • PLA (polylactic acid): Made from plant starches like corn; sturdy and glass-clear.
  • Bagasse: Fibrous sugarcane waste; often striated appearance.
  • Wheat straw: Crop residue turned into pulp; earthy aesthetics.
  • Wood pulp: Fiber pulp from sustainable forests; warm, natural look.
  • Bamboo: Quickly regenerating grass; durable, smooth finish.

Take time to research the pros and cons of each, as factors like durability, appearance, and price can vary. Be sure all materials come from responsibly managed renewable sources as well.

Calculate Full Lifecycle Costs, Not Just Upfront Price

Eco-friendly cutlery does often cost more per piece than regular plasticware. But when factoring in the full lifecycle, the investment pays dividends through energy and waste reduction.

  • Buy in bulk to lower costs. Partnering with other offices can increase volume discounts.
  • Compare overall value, not just upfront pricing. Savings from less waste can make higher prices worth it.
  • Consider the unpriced environmental benefits. Lower energy use and plastic waste have wide positive impacts.

Ensure Proper Decomposition Based on Local Facilities

One common misconception is that biodegradable cutlery will break down anywhere, whether in a landfill or backyard compost bin. In reality, most require commercial composting facilities to fully decompose.

Look for cutlery made of materials like PLA, bagasse, and bamboo fiber that are certified commercially compostable. Then make sure to work with composters in your area that accept these eco-friendly materials. Don’t assume biodegradable means suitable for backyard composting.

Verify Cutlery Meets Safety Standards for Food Contact

While biodegradable cutlery avoids plastic chemicals like BPAs and phthalates, care should still be taken to pick options suitable and safe for food use. Look for reputable brands that adhere to standards like:

  • FDA food contact regulations
  • European food safety standards
  • BPI commercial compostable certification

Quality control checks should ensure no traces of chemical contaminants that could leach into foods. Safety gives employees confidence to fully make the switch from regular plastics.

Reviews of Our Top 5 Recommended Biodegradable Cutlery

To help you select quality biodegradable cutlery for your office, we’ve compiled reviews of our top five recommended options based on value, materials, compostability, and durability.

1. GreenHome Compostable Cutlery

Overview: A budget-friendly PLA cutlery line from GreenHome, a leader in eco-products. Their classic, plant-based forks, knives, and spoons offer a sturdy feel.

Materials: PLA – durable corn-based plastic substitute

Design: Simple, straight shapes in translucent white. Medium thickness and weight.

Price: Around 2 cents per piece in bulk orders.

Pros: Lowest cost PLA line available. Decent durability and heat resistance. Commercially compostable.

Cons: Limited shape and color options. Can be prone to splintering when reused.

Best Use: High volume offices that need reliable cutlery for cheap. The value choice.

2. World Centric Compostables Premium Line

Overview: Upgraded bagasse and corn starch cutlery made sustainably by World Centric. Attractive colors/prints available.

Materials: Bagasse (sugarcane fiber) or Ingeo PLA. chemical-free.

Design: Ergonomic handles, rippled surfaces for grip. Fun colors like magenta or indigo.

Price: Around 3-4 cents per piece in bulk orders.

Pros: Good durability for bagasse material. Variety of colors/prints. BPI certified compostable.

Cons: A bit costlier than basic options. Limited design customization.

Best Use: Offices that want a touch of style in their eco-cutlery. Provides sturdy performance.

3. Eco Kloud Bamboo Cutlery Set

Overview: Sleek bamboo cutlery handcrafted from Moso bamboo by Eco Kloud. A reusable and natural option.

Materials: Smooth bamboo with ergonomic shapes. Sustainably harvested.

Design: Sophisticated clear-coated bamboo in neutral tones. Minimalist shapes. FSC certified.

Price: Around $18 for set of 30 pieces. About $0.60 per piece.

Pros: Gorgeous, natural material. Sturdy and lightweight. Zero waste alternative to disposables.

Cons: Hand cleaning required. Prone to staining over time. No customization.

Best Use: A reusable, eco-friendly option for minimal or low-waste offices. Makes a sustainable statement.

4. Vegware Compostable Cutlery

Overview: Lines of plastic-free cutlery by Vegware made of plants, wood pulp and agricultural materials. Sturdy feel.

Materials: Ingeo PLA, birchwood, bagasse. No BPAs or gluten.

Design: Natural wood-like colors and organic shapes. Textured handles for grip.

Price: Around 2.5-3 cents per piece in bulk.

Pros: Plastic-free materials. Contract printing options. Vegan and allergen friendly. Wide range of cutlery.

Cons: Limited bold color choices. Only paper packaging available.

Best Use: Variety of cutlery needs covered sustainably. Great for vegan workplaces.

5. Stalk Market Compostable Cutlery

Overview: Wheat straw-based cutlery manufactured in an eco-friendly zero waste facility by Stalk Market.

Materials: European wheat straw and other plants. Sturdy renewable materials.

Design: Natural straw coloring and texture. Classic straight cutlery shapes.

Price: Around 2 cents per piece in bulk orders.

Pros: Made in zero waste facility. Carbon neutral shipping. Wind-powered operations. Can be recycled where composting not available.

Cons: Limited shape options. Prone to splintering if reused often.

Best Use: The most eco-sustainable manufacturing choice. Made completely from plants.

How to Choose the Right Biodegradable Cutlery

With all the options out there, choosing the right biodegradable cutlery may feel daunting at first. But following this step-by-step process can make your selection smooth and successful:

1. Gauge Frequency of Daily Use and Durability Needs

Consider how often utensils get used each day, portions served, and types of food. Offices with higher volume need durable PLA cutlery, while minimal use may allow bamboo or bagasse. Get staff input on durability pain points with current cutlery as well.

2. Factor in Office Aesthetics and Branding

Do you want cutlery that makes a sleek sustainability statement? Prefer everyday disposable items with no frills? Eco-cutlery spans modern to earthy aesthetics. Also decide if you want to showcase branding/logo on utensils.

3. Compare Material Pros and Cons

Refer to the materials guide earlier to see if certain options like smooth bamboo or textured PLA best fit your office vibe. Samples can help assess durability, grip, and overall feel.

4. Ensure Compatibility with Office Dishwashers

Look for cutlery able to withstand high heat dishwasher use without warping or degrading over time. PLA and bagasse compostables often do well here.

5. Calculate Total Costs Over Time

Don’t just look at upfront per piece pricing. Calculate total spend based on bulk discounts and daily usage rates. Remember waste disposal savings too.

6. Verify Meets Food Contact Safety Standards

Check for FDA, BPI, European compliance and avoid BPA plastics. Get safety documentation from the manufacturer.

7. Match Decomposition to Local Facilities

Ensure the cutlery fully breaks down via commercial composting available in your area. Most can’t decompose in backyard piles.

8. Request Samples to Test Quality

Don’t buy in bulk sight unseen – get free samples from vendors to assess durability, feel, staining, and ease of use.

9. Start Small to Trial Options

Pilot a few final contender options first with small orders. See how they perform for office needs before making a big investment.

10. Ask for Staff Feedback on Function

Get input from regular breakroom users on if the new cutlery works for daily use or needs tweaks like added durability.

Following this methodical selection process will lead you to quality biodegradable cutlery that checks all the boxes for your office. Soon you’ll be keeping tons of plastic out of landfills and boosting your organization’s sustainability efforts.

Frequently Asked Questions About Eco-Friendly Cutlery

Wondering how biodegradable cutlery stacks up against regular plastic on key criteria? Here we tackle some of the most common questions that come up:

How much more does biodegradable cutlery cost compared to regular plastic?

Biodegradable cutlery ranges from 20-30% more per piece compared to basic plastic cutlery. But costs come down significantly when buying bulk cases of 1,000+ pieces. Partnering with other offices can drive costs lower too.

Does biodegradable cutlery compost in my backyard compost bin?

Unfortunately, most biodegradable cutlery needs the high heat and controlled conditions of commercial composters to fully break down. Backyard piles just don’t get hot enough for materials like PLA or bagasse to decompose. Always check a product’s compostability credentials before purchasing.

Is biodegradable cutlery as durable as regular plastic cutlery?

In many cases, it comes close. Look for thicker, high-quality materials like PLA rather than cheaper wood pulp or bagasse options. The durability depends heavily on the specific material and manufacturing quality, so test samples first whenever possible.

Can biodegradable cutlery go in the dishwasher?

Dishwasher compatibility depends on the material. Many PLA products hold up well to high heat washing, but lower temp cycles are better for bagasse or bamboo. Check manufacturer guidelines, and test a few pieces at first. Melting in the dishwasher can be a sign it needs handwashing.

How long does it take for biodegradable cutlery to decompose?

Most quality commercially compostable cutlery takes 2-6 months to fully biodegrade. However, poor quality cutlery may take years and simply break into smaller plastic bits instead of fully decomposing. That’s why third-party certification of compostability is so important.

Is biodegradable cutlery safe for hot foods and liquids?

Yes, materials like PLA used in quality cutlery are FDA approved for both hot and cold food contact. There are no BPAs or other chemicals to be concerned about as there are with regular plastic. Always check for food-grade certifications to be sure.

Where can I buy biodegradable cutlery for my office?

Online retailers like Eco-Products, GreenHome, and World Centric have a wide selection available for order, often with bulk discounts. Retail stores like Costco or Sam’s Club also carry a limited selection of compostable cutlery that works for smaller office needs.

Start Making the Switch From Plastic Cutlery

Hopefully this guide has shown that quality biodegradable cutlery is readily available for every office need and budget. The days of flimsy eco-products that snap in your hands are gone. Compostable materials like PLA and bagasse now rival plastic’s durability without the environmental toll.

And making the switch from traditional petroleum-based plastic cutlery to greener options has amazing benefits for both sustainability and office culture. Employees feel proud to work for a company that walks the walk on preserving the planet for future generations. Plus it kickstarts conversations around environmental initiatives that can spark new ideas.

Ready to start transitioning your breakroom from plastic to biodegradable cutlery? Consult the reviews and tips here to make your buying choice smooth and successful. Our top five recommended options offer a perfect starting point to trial run. Remember to get employee feedback too – they’re the daily users who can best judge if cutlery meets real-world needs.

With the right biodegradable cutlery in place, your office will be well on its way to cutting waste while also boosting morale. And your employees will keep sustainability top of mind each time they reach for a compostable fork to enjoy their lunch. So let’s work together toward a greener future, one eco-friendly utensil at a time!

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