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Using worms and fungi to compost packaging

Oyster mushroom fragment in hydrated packaging material.

Compostable food packaging – those beige colored forks and spoons, or clamshells and cups with some sort of ‘eco’ labelling or branding – are becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason. Their increased use reduces our consumption of their petroleum-based counterparts. But what happens to these products when we’re done using them? It’s not hard to imagine that most of them get ‘tossed’ like they always have been, destined for the landfill, and never actually recaptured. So let’s say we want to take that empty taco container and compost it at home? That itself can be a problem since many of these products, being so heavily processed, take a lot of heat and/or a lot of time to break down (ie ‘industrial’ composting). This is something which smaller scale at-home composting is not well equipped to do. But what about other methods of handling food waste at home?

Plant Chicago intern and Loyola University Chicago graduate student Thomas Knapp took a look at some of these methods, and their effectiveness at breaking down these types of compostable products.


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