Plastic Free July, Day 3: Utensils On The Go

reusable metal cutlery

(Back to the challenge summary)

Madison from Zero Waste California wrote the Plastic Free Challenge Day 3 blog post. We're very excited to share it with you!

Bring Your Own Utensils and Refuse Plastic Everyday!

From take-out, to picnics, to backyard barbecues, plastic cutlery has become a staple item for people on the go. This cheap convenience has an insidious cost, however, and cutting plastic cutlery out of your life is one of the biggest ways you can reduce your plastic footprint.

Stop single-use abuse!

Most plastic cutlery cannot be recycled. In fact, most black plastic cannot be recycled, like tv dinner trays!

Remember, if the plastic is black, put it back

plastic utensils black

“The majority of black plastic packaging is coloured using carbon black pigments which do not enable the pack to be sorted by the optical sorting systems being used widely in plastics recycling. As a result, black plastic packaging commonly ends up as residue and is disposed of in landfill or recycled into lower value materials where polymer sorting is not required.” -


However, even plant-based utensils labeled “compostable” have inherent issues

  • Firstly, just HOW compostable is it? How quickly does it biodegrade? If it takes years, months, even weeks to dissolve, this is still harmful for marine life, birds and other animals.
  • Secondly, since these materials generally need to be composted at facilities that can process such materials, how are these facilities supposed to tell the difference between compostable utensils and regular plastic utensils? Sometimes the plant-based utensils have a logo on it, but it is often very small, and they simply are not separated from the other utensils when going to landfill.
  • Lastly, only certain facilities have the ability to compost these items. What happens when people take these utensils outside of areas that can compost them? Well, they end up in landfill.

For example, a Bay Area school that will go unnamed thoughtfully decided to switch from plastic to potato-based cutlery in the cafeteria, therefore they would no longer be contributing single-use plastic to the landfill on such a large scale. For a field trip, classes went to their local municipal waste facility to watch the composting process first-hand. They were very surprised to find out that the potato-based cutlery they thought was going to compost all ended up in landfill.


Because the facilities could not tell them apart from regular plastic cutlery, even if there was a small label on them, they just did not have the manpower to sort through each piece to make sure it was compostable. In other words, if it looked like plastic, it got landfilled.


So Bring Your Own Set!

Here’s a great travel set from To-Go Ware. I’ve had my set for over a year now.

togoware bamboo utensils

But you don’t have to go out and buy a whole new fancy set of utensils, regular silverware works great too!

And if you’re not willing to part with the silverware in your set, pick up some new-to-you utensils at your local thrift store, they’ve got plenty!

My partner utilized his camping utensils for an even more efficient way to travel with utensils: with a tool that combines the spoon, fork, and knife. What would that be called? A Sporfe???

It looks like this:

reusable utensils fork knife spoon

Please note the green Sporfe was slightly melted due to improper cooking techniques. Shame.

The point is, he did not have to go out and buy a new travel utensil set. He used what he already had. There’s absolutely no need for you to purchase a new set of utensils, either. You can easily make your own travel set. Here’s a quick one I put together using extra silverware, a metal straw and my dinosaur makeup bag. 

Old pencil bags make great utensil carrying kits, too!

travel utensils set

Be creative and be prepared, and zero wasting will come easy!  

Join the conversation!