Pros and cons of wooden cutlery
A couple of years ago, the EU banned the use of plastic in disposable cutlery. Since disposable forks, knives, and spoons are an established part of our everyday lives, brands have begun offering alternatives made from more environmentally friendly materials, including wooden cutlery.
Wood is one of the most obvious options, as it is a genuine natural product. But the case is more complex. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of swapping plastic cutlery for wooden alternatives.
Pro: wood is a natural material
The biggest upside of using wood to replace plastic cutlery is that it’s a natural, renewable material. This means no fossil-based ingredients are needed to produce it, and it can be disposed of by composting without leaving traces like microplastics.
This naturalness makes wood an easy sell: consumers know where it comes from and perceive it as an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic. However, the demand for disposable cutlery is huge, and the production of wooden cutlery requires a constant stream of virgin material. This, of course, means cutting down trees and turning them into knives and forks for convenience-hungry consumers. In the long run, it’s not a sustainable solution. Sulapac materials, then again, can be chemically recycled and reused to produce new cutlery and other goods in a circular fashion.
Con: wood absorbs liquids and bacteria
Being an absorbent material, wood soaks up water and other liquids. This means that wooden cutlery often can’t be washed and may provide an ideal breeding ground for microbes and bacteria. This can be rectified by giving your wooden cutlery a plastic coating. Of course, the coating then makes composting virtually impossible as the coating can’t be separated from the wood.
Con: there is little regulation for wooden cutlery products
Most wooden cutlery manufacturers omit the plastic coating, as that might make the product subject to plastic legislation. But for purely wooden products, there’s very little regulation. Few wooden cutlery products would pass the same food safety tests that, for example, Sulapac materials undergo.
Due to this lack of regulation, the wooden cutlery market is kind of like a wild west: you can’t always really know what a wooden fork or knife is made of, how durable it is, or whether it contains chemicals. For example, if it has a logo printed on it, in many cases there’s no guarantee that the color is non-toxic.
A better option: a durable, hygienic alternative to conventional plastic
Plastic initially replaced wood as a material because it’s quick and easy to produce, as well as being durable and hygienic. Sulapac has all of these good qualities but without the bad attributes of plastic, such as the dilemma of microplastic pollution or the release of old, fossil-based carbon.
Sulapac can be injection molded, meaning you can make the cutlery precisely the shape you want. While Sulapac can be used to produce cutlery on the same production lines as plastic, wood requires a new production line to be set up – an investment that can be on the same scale as starting a new business. For Sulapac, you may have to replace the molds, but even then, the investment is reasonably priced.
Also, Sulapac does not require first generation raw-material from wood. The wood material used in Sulapac is side-stream wood flour so there is no need to cut down trees just for producing cutlery. Sulapac is strong, resilient, and pleasant to use. Few of us wash and reuse disposable utensils, but with Sulapac, you can do it too. They can even be washed in the dishwasher.
Interested? You can view our material portfolio for cutlery here and contact us here.
Sulapac Ltd accelerates the plastic waste-free future by replacing conventional plastic with sustainable materials that are beautiful and functional. Like nature. The Helsinki-based company was founded in 2016 by three scientists Dr. Suvi Haimi, Dr. Laura Tirkkonen-Rajasalo and Dr. Antti Pärssinen and was ranked one of Europe’s 100 hottest startups by WIRED UK in 2018, 2019 and 2021. Investors behind the award-winning, patented material innovation include CHANEL and Sky Ocean Ventures. Join the forerunners at sulapac.com.