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July 24, 2008

Microsoft Composting News

There were a couple of articles on an internal website about Microsoft's switch to compostable plates and cutlery. Some highlighted quotes:

"We collected about 7,900 tons of solid waste per year...We estimate that, by going to this program, solid waste will be reduced by 50 percent."

"Microsoft has eliminated over 109 tons of polystyrene that would have been burned as fuel." [12%, evidently, is the efficiency of the waste-to-fuel plant where we sent out polystyrene, at least according to the flyers somebody posting in the kitchen urging us to bring in a washable cup.]

"Microsoft’s newfound demand for the eco-friendly cups, plates, and cutlery solidified an emerging market, giving a boost to the compostable tableware industry in the process."

"We're causing a huge demand for products in the compostable cutlery industry as well as the paper cup industry...With the case of the cutlery, what we’ve found is that we actually doubled the market."

Overall this looks like a great success. I particularly like the part where we alone doubled the market for starch cutlery; I expect to see Costco selling this stuff soon. There have been some complaints that it droops in hot liquid (although I tried an experiment, putting a spoon in hot water for 20 minutes, and saw no effect) and that some people with sensitive noses can detect a smell from the cutlery (which the manufacturer says goes away when they are exposed to air, and anyway they will remove the problem entirely soon).

My favorite quote is in response to the question "How durable is this stuff?": "It’ll get you through a meal, but, by design, it’s supposed to fall apart shortly after that...Also, make sure you don’t leave a cup full of coffee on your desk. If you do, you might find a mess when you get to work the next day." I have also heard people complain about this (the cups starting to biodegrade a bit sooner than desired) but at least it shows that the stuff works the way it is intended. Nowadays when I have lunch in the cafeteria I usually produce no trash: aluminum cans go into the recycling and everything else (napkins, plates, cutlery, and food scraps) goes into the composting.

Posted by AdamBa at July 24, 2008 09:58 PM