At this year’s Food and Wine Experience, the more eco-minded among us were stunned at the amount of glassware (real glass), paper products, and plastic plates, drinkware, and utensils that were unceremoniously tossed into trash cans—and therefore destined for landfill. At least one vendor, however, served its food samples on SelfEco’s Asian spoon bowls. A 100-percent compostable utensil made from polylactic acid (PLA), which is derived from renewable plants grown in the United States, the Asian spoon bowl is one of almost 100 items created and produced by the Stillwater-based company.
Danny Mishek, president of VistaTek, a family-owned, custom-injection molding company, created SelfEco. “I’ve been exposed to manufacturing my whole life,” says Mishek, a third-generation manufacturer. “It’s cool to make things.”
“I have four children, so I’m learning about the need to take care of our environment from my kids,” Mishek continues. “I decided to take some new dream materials that come from plants and design cutlery, cups, bowls, plates, and other partyware supplies around the chemistry of these materials.”
The dream material is the biopolymer PLA, which is derived from starchy renewable plants like corn, switch grass and sugar beets. The starch from these plants is processed into a biopolymer that looks, acts, and performs like its traditional—but not eco-friendly—cousin: petroleum-based plastics. PLA is 100 percent compostable in commercial compost facilities.
SelfEco sources its food-safe PLA Ingeo™ Bioplastic from Natureworks, LLC, which offers commercially available biopolymers derived from 100 percent annually renewable resources, at a cost competitive with petroleum-based packaging materials and fibers.
All of SelfEco’s earth-friendly products—martini cups with garnish hangers and square cups with utensil hangers; holiday-themed products in bright, cheery colors; stemless wine glasses and champagne flutes; and cutlery—are available for purchase on the SelfEco’s website. This spring, SelfEco is also offering the SelfEco Pot, the first plant-based compostable garden pot with built-in plant food (distiller’s grain).
“I’ve been green-washed over the last 10 years to think green means you overpay and it underperforms,” Mishek says. “People think you have to sacrifice to use something green. With our design skills and manufacturing background, we’ve created a premium product that’s competitively priced.
“We’ve also been to enough cocktail parties to know what works and what doesn’t.
We’re don’t like cutlery that’s brittle and breaks, so our fists end up in the sauce. We’re not savages. So we designed around the flaws of other green products. And our designs are sexy. No matter what event you’re having, you’ll be proud to use our products.”
By Camille LeFevre