Have you ever wanted to do good, tried hard to do good, went to great lengths to do good, but then it turns out what you did – through no fault of your own – really wasn’t that good?
That’s how Clover Food Lab’s Founder and CEO Ayr Muir felt recently when he learned that a company called Save That Stuff, which he hired to pick up his compostable tableware and food scraps from his restaurants wasn’t composting his stuff at all, but instead dumping it all in a landfill!
Since Ayr first founded the company he set out to have everything compostable. Clover has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the quest, making hard decisions about paying more for cups ($0.16 instead of $0.03), trash bags ($1.00 instead of $0.05), and paying Save That Stuff a lot more than a normal trash collector to have the compost hauled away. Clover even got the compostable tableware company to make a new product, hot lids for cups, so they could go 100% compostable back in 2010, making them very probably the first fast food chain to do so. So, you can imagine how upset Ayr was after all of that time, effort and expense to learn his compostables had started going to a landfill anyway.
Clover is now looking into other options so that they can continue to compost all of their waste.
The good news in all this is how many people are sharing in Ayr’s frustration and voicing their support for Clover’s composting efforts. Just a decade ago we may not have even been having this conversation. More and more people want to compost and the market has responded. Compostable plates, cups, tableware, and other compostable products are on the rise, and businesses like Clover are using them more than ever.
This is also a good opportunity to ask what we can do as consumers to help support business owners like Ayr in their efforts.
The first of course is to make a point to buy from businesses that are doing the right thing by diverting waste from landfills and composting instead.
The second is to do our part to help solve what’s known as the “front of the house” problem. Restaurant staff are trained to know what is compostable and what is not, but diners in the front of the house sometimes mix trash and recyclables into compost receptacles. This contamination means more energy is needed to separate compostable from non-compostable waste. If contamination is too high, compost facilities cannot accept the refuse at all. Even one piece of chewing gum can hose up the process, so we must all be mindful as to what we are putting into the bins provided.
Lastly, reuse remains the greenest policy. The surest way to keep our compostable cup out of the landfill is to bring our own reusable cups instead. Products are springing up that makes bringing your own tableware easy. Wooden to-go tableware, for example, or this product made in Sweden, makes it so that you can carry around a fork, knife, and spoon with one lightweight, washable utensil.
As composting becomes more and more mainstream we can help support businesses like Clover that are going the extra mile to do what’s good for the planet. It is also important for us to do our part to help them succeed in their efforts by being mindful at the point of separation, educate our friends and family, and to continue to reuse whenever possible.