Ditch the Plasticware!

A green entrepreneur founded a company that makes cups and cutlery from plants.

by Sue Tomchin

Have you ever cleaned up from a party or meal and been astounded at how much plastic debris ends up in the trash, destined for landfills where it will remain, unchanged, virtually forever?

 Lauren Gropper

Lauren Gropper

Green entrepreneur and environmental activist Lauren Gropper saw this happening and decided to find a sustainable alternative. She founded and serves as CEO of Repurpose Compostables, a company that makes cups, plates and utensils from plants instead of plastic.

The need for this is clear: A piece of plastic can take hundreds of years to decompose. Since less than 10 percent of single-use plastic is recycled, that means a lot of it ends up in the environment, leaching known carcinogens styrene and BPA into the soil or clogging up the ocean. And here’s something that will give you pause: Harmful chemicals leached from plastics are present in the bloodstream of almost every one of us, including newborns.

Repurpose’s products—hot cups, cold cups, plates (both small and dinner size), bowls and utensils are made from such renewable resources as corn, sugar cane and bamboo, rather than oil. That’s a big step toward sustainability since eight percent of the world’s oil supply goes into making single-use plastic. Free of toxins, they are durable enough to reuse. Though not recyclable, at an industrial composting facility they decompose in a matter of months, not millennia.

“Growing up with Jewish values such as 'making the world a better place' definitely contributed to my desire to create a product line that could do well by doing good,” Gropper says.

Repurpose is only the latest illustration of her dedication to protecting the environment. A LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-accredited professional, she has consulted on more than 75 projects in North America. With a master’s in environmental planning and design, she has taught green building principles to graduate students in architecture and urban planning. The co-founder of Minimal Products LLC, an environmental consulting firm, Gropper was an on-camera host and consultant for HGTV’s Green Force and worked as a green consultant on the HBO show Entourage. She also appeared in ads for Absolut Vodka as part of the company’s Visionary campaign.

Repurpose products are available online as well as from a number of stores nationwide, including Safeway, Whole Foods and Wegman’s. Learn more at repurposecompostables.com.