How to Reduce Trash at your Parties (and what I learned from Taco Time)

At our child’s first birthday party I had the idea to use some compostable plates and cutlery to reduce waste. So we had three bins – a trash bin, recycle bin, and compost bin. It was unfortunately a disaster, a significant amount of stuff was missorted so we had food in the recycle, cans in the trash, etc. It was a nice idea but a terrible disaster.

This lead me to understand the brilliance of Taco Time’s plan for its restaurants – make sure everything is compostable so there’s only one bin. I know it is hard to believe the fast food pseudo-mexican place is innovating with their waste program…but it’s true. Plus no matter how inauthentic, their crispy tacos are tasty.

So the plan is simple – get compostable cups, cutlery, plates, etc and everything goes in the compost bin. We put water in a pitcher with lemons instead of offering water bottles and we’ve even avoided the beer cans with a few growlers.

Now I’ll be the first to admit I don’t love promoting wasting resources with single use items, but the reality is with 50 people over for a birthday, we simply don’t have the dishes on hand (or room to store them if we wanted to get them). So I figure better to make compost than landfill.

One of the nice side benefits of this plan is that we don’t overflow our trash bin with a party – our yard waste/compost bin is huge and can easily accommodate the extra bags.

As for where to get compostables I’ve found a few great resources:

  • Smart Foodservice (formerly Cash & Carry) – while this store is targeting the food service industry, consumers can shop here too. At least in the Seattle region they carry a huge selection of compostable plates, bowls, cups, etc in reasonable quantity for a party and great pricing. For example you can get compostable 18oz cups for 12¢ a piece, only about 3¢ more than Solo cups at Target. Note however the 100pk of compostable cutlery for $4 is usually a special order, so plan ahead unless you want a huge box.
  • Amazon – while more expensive than Cash & Carry the convenience of having stuff just show up is undeniable. But for example the same compostable cup would be 20¢ from Amazon. 
  • Costco – Costco is my go-to for 13 gallon compostable bags and the Chinet plates and bowls they sell are made from recycled materials and are compostable.

Since changing to a single-bin solution we’ve had great success with reduced waste at our parties and minimal issues with items in the wrong bin. Try switching to compostables for your next event and I think you’ll see its easy and minimal cost.

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