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Some experts estimate that 40 billion individual plastic utensils are used or wasted every year in the United States. Even worse, most recycling facilities will not accept them because the process of recycling them is cost-prohibitive. Instead, the plastic ends up in landfills where it can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, or in the ocean, where it becomes a deadly problem for birds, mammals, and sea turtles.
One company has developed a process to create environmentally-friendly disposable utensils that have a delicious side effect. Mexico-based Biofase makes biodegradable, sustainable and affordable forks, spoons, knives, and even straws from leftover avocado pits.
Biofase was founded by chemical engineer Scott Munguía in 2014, a few years after he had discovered that avocado seeds contain a biopolymer similar to the one in corn used to create bioplastic. The company’s products contain 60% avocado biopolymer and 40% synthetic organic compounds, and their goal is to meet the growing demand for plastic without affecting the fight against hunger.
According to the company, no special recycling is necessary. Its patented process uses technology to transform the avocado pits into a bioplastic resin (the first non-food-based one of its kind) that can withstand heat. The result comes in the form of a sheet that can be molded and cut.
“Did you know that plastic straws can take up to 200 years to decompose?” Biofase USA posted on its Facebook page. “And most ‘alternative’ straws need special facilities to be compostable. Our straws and cutlery degrade naturally in just 240 days and you can even compost them at home! Make the change!”
Other bioplastics, such as those made from corn, starch or other organic materials, are certainly an improvement over their plastic counterparts. But not all bioplastics are created equally.
While they might degrade more quickly and easily than plastic, some bioplastics contain high levels of traditional plastic, while the production of others requires extensive land use and contributes more to ozone depletion than even plastic does. The creation of bioplastics can also result in greater amounts of pollutants because of the fertilizers used to grow crops and the chemical processes needed to make them into a usable form.
Since Mexico grows so many avocados to be eaten — Americans devoured more than 6 billion of them in 2020 — the pits are readily available in Biofase’s home territory. Biofase claims its products have a lower carbon footprint than even paper.
Biofase converts approximately 130 tons of avocado seeds a month at three locations into forks, knives, spoons, and straws. They currently ship products across Mexico, Europe, and Australia, where they are primarily used in restaurants. However, you can buy products from them directly wholesale and they have an Amazon store where boxes with 50 straws or 24 utensils apiece cost $4.50.
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