Last week I received a sample pack of Verterra disposable dinnerware. Verterra might be the coolest new product in the somewhat oxymoronic world of sustainable disposable products. They have a natural beige wood-like appearance with clean rounded edges and they are rigid. The dinnerware is made from the discarded palm leaves of the betelnut tree.
The plates, platters, and bowls are certified compostable, reusable (if gently hand washed), microwaveable, and refrigerator and oven safe. According to Time magazine Americans discard nearly a trillion disposable plates and utensils every year, much of which is plastic and is going to sit in landfills virtually forever. Verterra breaks-down in the landfill in just eight weeks because it is minimally processed, steam formed, sterilized palm leaves made without waxes or chemicals.
As I continued researching Verterra, I found that the back-story got better and better. The leaves from which the plates are made would generally be burned in large piles releasing pollution and contributing to global warming. The manufacture of these dishes saves 100 tons of leaves monthly from the burn pile and the factory discards a measly single bag of garbage per week. The company has created 170 jobs in India and the US from a polluting bi-product.
On the surface there are two drawbacks to the products as I see them. Firstly, they are shipped from India, contributing to some fossil fuel consumption. Secondly, the plates are relatively expensive at about 60 cents a plate for retail consumers. In my opinion these products are sturdier, much nicer looking, and more environmentally friendly than corn plastic or bioplastics, as these products do not break down in the a natural environment and are generally made with GMO plants.
Verterra is selectively available at co-ops and eco friendly retail shops, as production continually increases the products will have wider availability.