Someone thinks of it as an awakening, others of a new consciousness: whatever the reason, the whole world is starting to realize how harmful our behaviours up to now have been and how important it is instead to change course and take care of our planet. This brings new attention on the one hand to the return to traditional productions – one for all our much loved natural wine for example – which also consist of going back to a lower impact on the environment, on the other hand, to ecological alternatives to products and services, especially in the disposable products field. One of these is undoubtedly the fast-growing trend of biodegradable cutlery and accessories, including eco-friendly wine glasses, which by 2021 will finally be the norm throughout Europe.
Plastic vs eco-friendly
First, we need to clarify the terminology: as we all know, “eco-friendly” means a product with minimal impact on the environment, which can, therefore, be recycled over time without creating non-disposable waste. The eco-friendly cutlery and glasses trend has arisen in recent decades when plastic alternatives have started to be added to the more classic glass and metal accessories. Plastic is the most widespread non-biodegradable material in the world; its indiscriminate use is a direct consequence of its resistance to biodegradability: plastic is resistant, does not melt and is long-lived. All advantages that turn into problems in a society like ours, where disposable has become the rule.
Consciences have awakened as landfills and pollution problems widen: at this rate we will end up leaving our grandchildren a world covered in waste and irreparably ruined by pollution, so it is time to find alternatives.
Biodegradable, compostable…what a mess!
There are alternatives today and they are also starting to be used in a widespread way: just think of festivals and food fairs, where the use of biodegradable and compostable materials is becoming a new, excellent standard.
We said biodegradable and compostable, and once again we have to make a distinction between the terms because although often used as synonyms, in reality, they are not. We speak of biodegradable materials for all those that can be attacked by bacteria over time and therefore disappear; compostable materials, on the other hand, have a very short degradation time, generally less than 12 weeks in composting plants before returning to nature as compost.
So both terms characterize eco-friendly materials, what changes is the time of degradation, which in compostable ones is short while in biodegradable ones indefinite. All compostable materials are biodegradable, while the opposite is not always true.
Eco-friendly wine glasses
These alternatives to plastic include all the so-called bioplastics: materials that take up the characteristics of plastic but are obtained with natural raw materials – primarily corn starch in the cases of Materbi and PLA, but also remains of sugar cane and pine forests for cellulose pulp – and for this reason, they are compostable.
Today you can also buy compostable wine glasses: these are transparent glasses that resemble plastic ones but made of a material called PLA. PLA, the acronym for polylactic acid, is obtained from corn starch and is the most suitable for containing cold liquids or at room temperature. It is an excellent disposable alternative to normal plastic because it is biodegradable and allows you to enjoy a good glass of wine without altering its flavour or texture, while also respect the environment. The only attention to be paid: it has less heat resistance than plastic, therefore it is not suitable for hot liquids. But in the case of our favourite natural wine, we do not really see the problem 😉
In short, the alternatives to disposable plastic cups are now widely available on the market and can be used to minimize our impact on the planet. Although let’s face it, nothing beats a classic glass, perhaps full of a nice Italian biodynamic Barolo! Cheers!