Aloterra announces foodservice ware line made from miscanthus

By Aloterra | April 30, 2015

Sustainable agribusiness leader, Aloterra, and compostable foodservice ware innovator, World Centric, are jointly developing and marketing a new line of certified compostable foodservice ware made from Miscanthus plant fiber. The line is designed to displace similar products made from foam and plastic, which create millions of tons of waste in America each year.

The products are the first of what is to be a new sector of the economy. They are sourced from Miscanthus Giganteus, a large, perennial grass crop resembling bamboo, which is grown on marginal, non-food producing American farmland. The line will be manufactured, marketed and distributed entirely in the U.S. Currently, the majority of fiber based compostable foodservice ware is produced in Asia, thus outsourcing jobs and adding carbon emissions from shipping to the environmental and economic costs of production.

The foodservice ware is as strong as foam and plastic and will sell at a similar price as fiber foodservice ware produced in Asia. Aloterra and World Centric will initially produce 55 million 9” plates and six sizes of “clamshell” food take-out containers with expanded production planned for 2016. The companies will launch the line on May 16 at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago.

Aloterra’s Miscanthus farming operation occupies 4,000 acres of marginal land – not suitable to grow food crops like corn or soy beans—in Ohio and Pennsylvania. This project is unique as it supports both manufacturing jobs and farmers who are earning income on marginal land that would otherwise be lost to development or go idle. There are more than 30 million acres of marginal farmland in the Midwest.

Miscanthus is exceptional because it is more sustainable, economically sound, and environmentally friendly than annual crops and other non-wood fibers. Once planted, this non-invasive perennial crop grows back each year for 15 or more years. The result is a decrease in land erosion and the use of fewer chemicals. Perennial crops thrive with less care and water. Aloterra and World Centric are the only companies internationally that are manufacturing and marketing a foodservice ware line made from Miscanthus.

“There is a growing awareness of environmental and social issues. Businesses want to do the right thing for themselves and for their customers and are seeing that that they have a responsibility to operate with a concern for the environment. This trend can be also seen in the success of up and coming quick service and fast casual restaurants that are providing more organic, healthy and sustainable foods. Similarly, they are in search of sustainable packaging to match their food offerings instead of using foam or plastic packaging,” says Aseem Das, World Centric founder and CEO. Expanded polystyrene (EPS), or foam, packaging has been banned in communities and major cities around the nation including New York, San Francisco and Portland.

Production will begin this summer in Aloterra’s Ohio plant. The products will be available for foodservice operators—including quick service restaurants—shortly thereafter.

The Aloterra – World Centric partnership is one of both desire and necessity. Each company chose the other based on respect for their corporate ethics, methods, and operations. World Centric is a Certified B Corp, with a corporate mission to serve the planet and people. Aloterra is pioneering a bold new trail in biomass and sustainable product manufacturing, committed to producing energy and products from more sustainable perennial crops and farming on marginal land. Aloterra sees its work as the next generation of agribusiness.

World Centric intends to convert 100 percent of its compostable fiber foodservice ware to the new Miscanthus line. “World Centric and Aloterra are values-aligned,” says Aloterra Founder and Chief Legal Officer Scott Coye-Huhn. “We are proud to domestically manufacture and sell certified compostable food packaging, sourced from U.S.-grown environmentally beneficial plant fiber utilizing marginalized lands, while the same time creating jobs and providing income to farmers.”

Consistent with these values, World Centric and Aloterra believe that transparency and the integrity of sustainability claims for the entire supply chain is critically important for customers transitioning to Made in the USA foodservice ware. With that in mind, the entire supply chain—from the growing of the crops, to the pulp, to the final foodservice package—will be independently certified to The Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials standard. “World Centric’s customers will have the peace of mind of knowing exactly where all of the product’s ingredients are sourced and that the sustainability claims are legitimate,” said Aloterra’s Coye-Huhn.