The Sustainable Silverware Project

With fewer recycling options, and plastic waste wreaking havoc on ecosystems all over the world, it's long past time to look at our options and make efforts to reduce plastic waste. Plastic is everywhere we turn, and it can feel like an overwhelming and impossible task to weed it out of our daily lives. Here at the Co-op, we are exploring and researching ways to reduce plastic usage, and we often find that each solution comes with unique challenges. For instance, compostable single-use utensils are not accepted by our local composting facilities and they are often made from GMO corn. Specifically addressing compostable serviceware, Rogue Disposal says on their website: "the reality is that these materials aren’t as compostable as you’d think — and they’re actually hurting the quality and integrity of all-natural compost."

When the Moscow, Idaho community faced changes to their local recycling program, our friends at Moscow Food Co-op implemented a Sustainable Silverware Project. Moscow Food Co-op was already providing metal utensils for meals served in-house, so they made the decision to eliminate the plastic option, and to give folks metal utensils for to-go meals. They simply asked shoppers to return any borrowed forks, spoons, and knives on their next visit. Did they expect every single utensil to come back? No, but they were already sending plastic utensils out into the world (to be thrown away), and those cost money, too. Sometimes the best solutions are simpler than we think, and right in front of us: give everyone reusable metal utensils, and simply eliminate plastic. Encourage reuse. Encourage reducing waste. Encourage the community to get involved and help make a difference.

We're grateful for great solutions, and just as thankful for cooperation. October is Co-op Month, celebrated nationally for more than 50 years! As we reflect on our cooperative principles this month, we wanted to highlight two of our favorite principles in relation to the Sustainable Silverware Project. First, we want to celebrate principle six (P6): Cooperation Amongst Cooperatives. P6 means that cooperatives work together to most effectively serve their member-owners. Because Moscow Food Co-op was willing to share their idea, we were able to implement a Sustainable Silverware Project of our own to reduce our plastic waste and benefit our community. THANK YOU to Moscow Food Co-op, and thank you to our community who have embraced the program and offered your support.

The second principle we want to mention is principle seven (P7): Concern for Community. It is out of genuine concern for our local community – and the broader community of planet Earth – that the Co-op seeks solutions to single-use plastics. As mentioned above, many solutions carry their own challenges. For example, plastic packaging has been shown to reduce food waste – and food waste is another big issue for which we continually seek better solutions. Sometimes the best solutions might take time to work through the challenges, and sometimes they might be easy to implement. In celebration of P7, we want to assure you that we are committed to reducing waste and eliminating unnecessary single-use plastics, and we will continue to seek solutions that work for our Co-op and our community.

And finally, if you have not been introduced to the Sustainable Silverware Project, see the details below.

Here’s how it works:

  1. When you need a utensil on the go, borrow one! Take what you need and enjoy your meal.
  2. On your next Co-op trip, return any borrowed utensils. Place them in the bus tub by the front door to the Café.
  3. Staff will wash and sanitize the utensils, and put them out for reuse.

You’re welcome to donate any unwanted silverware from home to the project! Please place unwanted metal utensils in the bus tub to be sanitized. It’s a small, simple step, but we’re hoping you can help us make a big reduction in our plastic usage.

1. Rogue Disposal, "Being compostable doesn’t always mean better for the environment: The trouble with “compostable” packaging and serviceware."
2. Moscow Food Co-op, Sustainable Silverware Project