That was it for disposable plastic plates, disposable plastic cutlery, plastic drinking straws. Even cotton swabs made of plastic, fast-food packaging and to-go drinks cups made of Styrofoam, as well as plastic-coated paper plates were involved with the – Warning, word monster! – Disposable plastic ban regulation of the EU. It has been in force since July 3rd. Since then, many single-use plastic products are no longer allowed to be produced in the EU and – with the exception of old stocks – can no longer be put on the market. This also applies to items made from bio-based plastics, which are not made from petroleum, but are usually just as difficult to break down.
Garbage over garbage
The goal is clear, it is the need to change course. The ban is intended to contain the masses of plastic waste in the environment. In the world’s oceans alone, plastic waste accounts for up to 80 percent of maritime littering. It is estimated that up to 12.7 million tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans worldwide every year – this corresponds to a truck load per minute. According to the German Federal Environment Ministry, 320,000 disposable cups for hot beverages are drunk every hour in Germany alone – making 2.8 billion disposable cups per year. Worldwide, one million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute; within the European Union, 36.4 billion single-use plastic drinking straws are used every year. But what are the alternatives?
Alternative to plastic
When it comes to drinking straws, the »substitute bench« is well staffed. Obvious: back to the origins – back to straw. Old rye varieties are particularly suitable for this because they have a thick, sturdy stalk, says Daniel Auinger for his straws, which he obtains from organic grain cultivation in Upper Austria and which he also sells for gastronomy. The straws can even be branded using laser inscription. Macaroni noodles are also a good alternative to plastic. The catch: the noodles, which are actually produced as food, end up in the organic waste. Reusable drinking straws made of glass or stainless steel are more maintenance-intensive. Their cleaning is not always easy, but they are tasteless (which cannot always be said with alternatives made of paper).
In the course of the corona-related take away hype, plates and bowls made of plastic have increasingly come into circulation again. Apart from reusable plates made of porcelain or plastic, you have to differentiate between alternatives in terms of sustainability. Because disposable plates made from palm leaves or, for example, the bagasse that falls off from cane sugar production, are less expensive to produce than cardboard or paper. However, they mostly come from plantations in whose monocultures pesticides are used, or they have to be transported from far away. In comparison, bagasse leaves the smaller ecological footprint. Because the production of paper plates requires more wood, a lot of energy, chemicals and water, which in terms of environmental pollution reaches similar dimensions as plastic production.
100 percent compostable
There are also lunch boxes made from sugar cane fibers. They can only be used as single-use products, but they are robust, heat-resistant, 100 percent compostable and biodegradable. The same applies to replacing Styrofoam drinking cups: Bagasse cups are better off in the ecological balance than paper cups – also because the latter are made leakproof and insulated with a special coating. At the very top of the sustainability hit parade are reusable ceramics, as they have been established for example at mulled wine and punch stands in Advent as part of a deposit-return model. In any case, guests do not have to do without the typical “fly by” character of a market stall or a sausage stand when it comes to dishes: there are drinking cups and French fries cups made of ceramic – but with a cardboard look.