When we first opened Callisto Tea House, we had sustainability at the forefront of our minds. All of the trash collecting in landfills and in our oceans has been a big concern of ours for many years. We wanted to avoid wasteful packaging and especially plastic as much as possible. Our research led us to choose several products containing PLA, a “bioplastic” that claims to be compostable.
We thought compostable packaging was an easier solution for our customers than having to clean, sort and recycle. Unfortunately, we have since learned that PLA and other bioplastics are not actually compostable (source). Though they are often labeled “100% compostable” or “certified compostable”, in smaller print you can usually find text like “commercially compostable where accepted”. What that means is, in certain laboratory conditions, these materials can be broken down. But in most composting scenarios, like the green bins California residents use, they won’t break down. In that sense they are no better than plastic. Actually, they’re worse, because they can’t be recycled either. They can only be used to pollute. (And we looked for a commercial composting facility that would accept PLA - we didn’t find any… in the state of California.)
So when it came time to purchase new packaging, we fell back on old reliable. We looked for packaging that was made from recycled material, and that can be recycled. We weren’t always able to find good options, but here’s what we did find:
Our takeout cups and lids for cold beverages are made from 35% recycled plastic, and are recyclable. Please put them in your blue bin when you’re finished with them.
Our straws are made from PHA, which, unlike PLA, claims to be home compostable as well as marine biodegradable, meaning they will break down in the ocean. Assuming this is accurate, they should be put in your green bin for composting. We’re planing to move to “strawless” cup lids, with a sip instead of a hole, for our next round.
Takeout cups for hot beverages were a dead end for us. Because they’re a composite material (paper lined with plastic or PLA), they can’t be recycled. But the lids we found are 25% recycled plastic, and can be recycled. Put the lids in your blue bin, and the cups, sadly, in the trash. We’ll keep looking.
Our tea packages and pastry boxes are made from recycled materials, but are also a composite of paper and plastic, so they cannot be recycled. We are considering alternatives for those as well.
All of our shopping bags and tissue fillers are recycled paper - they can go in the blue bin. Napkins should go in a green bin after use.
We hope this helps, and we’ll continue to keep you updated as we look for better options toward a trash-free future!