21 August 2017

Are biodegradable disposables the future?

Cups of sugarcane, plates of palm leaves and cutlery of corn sugar replace the current porcelain dishes and cutlery during a pilot in one of the restaurants of Utrecht University. After use, the biodegradable disposables are processed into compost that can be used for growing vegetables and fruit.

Circular chain

In the restaurant comes a shredder (Super Lizzy) in which the biodegradable disposables are collected together with the organic waste. The shredder shreds, verges and compresses the waste. The waste processor then ensures that the correct proportions of materials are processed in the composting machine (50% disposables and 50% organic waste). After 24 hours of composting and mixing, the fluids have been removed from the waste (volume reduction of 85%) and bacteria have converted the remaining material into compost.


Compressing the waste causes a volume reduction of a maximum of 90%. This means that less time and money is needed for the waste collection, less biodegradable waste bags need to be used and the waste processor has to make less waste disposal rounds.

Research by students

During the pilot, students of the Green Office will investigate the compost in collaboration with the Department of Biology and Botanical Gardens. What is the quality of the compost? What can the university use it for? Furthermore, the Green Office students study how employees and students experience the disposables and what the actual impact of the disposables is on the environment, in comparison with the porcelain dishes. After the pilot, an evaluation and a decision on a possible follow-up will follow.

Cooperation partners

The pilot is in line with the university's goal of having a CO2-neutral business in 2030. Utrecht  University works together with Biofutura (supplier of biodegradable disposables), GreenTrash (shredder supplier), Asito (collector of separated waste at location ) and Ecocreation (supplier of composting machine located at Renewi’s waste disposal site). The pilot runs until the end of December and is done in the restaurant in the Androclus building in collaboration with Sodexo (caterer), who cooperates entirely.