Bioplastic Food Containers


Please put all bioplastic cups, clamshells and utensils in the landfill. This material is NOT accepted in the compost bin.  Our waste hauler can’t process them as compost– they take too long to properly break down. 

Epicurean, the cafeteria vendor, has phased most of these containers out and replaced them with fiber based products that will properly compost. 

How can you tell if it’s made of bioplastic?

This material looks and feels like normal plastic. It is typically flexible and often clear. On many cups, there is a green band around the bottom. The circular arrows that make the common recycling symbol often identifies the number (resin) as 0 or 7 PLA. On clamshells, it’s harder to distinguish, but it will sometimes have the recycling symbol with the resin number embossed on the bottom.

But it says it’s compostable! It’s even certified.

In perfect conditions, it’s possible for some bioplastics to break down in in industrial composting facilities. However, even at these facilities– including the one where we send our compost–this material doesn’t have the chance to sit for the 3-6 months at a high temperature necessary for it to properly break down. It’s also hard for the workers there to distinguish it from other plastics which are commonly misplaced, so it is considered a contaminant. Even when it does break down at facilities where it has enough time to sit and degrade properly, the end compost product is not great, nor is it possible for organic farmers to use it.

What can you do?

BYO-Bring your own! There’s a 4th R to the hierarchy: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Bring a reusable food container to restaurants for leftovers, or order your food “for here” in the cafeteria and transfer it to your own container.

More information:

* The Problems With Bioplastics

What you need to know about plant-based plastics

Compostable Plastics 101