Friday, February 12, 2010

The Greening of Nashville Takeout Boxes

Posted By on Fri, Feb 12, 2010 at 1:41 PM

Ashley Currie, a Nashville entrepreneur, wants to help the planet by making takeout containers more green.

Currie has started a business offering eco-friendly food containers and other disposable foodware for restaurants, caterers and anyone planning a party.

click to enlarge Ashley Currie
  • Ashley Currie
Formerly a sales rep at the Scarritt-Bennett conference and retreat center, Currie has planned special events for years, and she noticed that customers are increasingly distressed by the amount of Styrofoam and plastic waste generated by even a simple party, what with all the cups, plates, flatware, napkins and such.

Seizing upon a niche, she started iHospitality. Her inventory includes plates, bowls, cups, to-go boxes, cutlery, napkins, lunch trays, bakeware and bags. All are either recyclable or designed to break down into compost, even in a home compost bin. They are also biodegradable in a landfill.

The products are made from various materials such a bagasse (the pulpy material that remains after sugar cane juice is extracted). "Throw it in a landfill or compost it, and it will decompose and actually enrich the soil," Currie says. Bagasse is oilproof (neither butter nor olive oil nor down-home pork drippings will make it too soggy) and microwavable.

Currie's paper containers are made from 100 percent recycled paperboard. If clients want clear cups or containers, she carries some products made from a transparent substance called polylactic acid, derived from corn, that looks like clear plastic but will degrade when discarded. (Just don't microwave or serve hot beverages in PLA cups -- they'll melt.)

Go to Currie's website to see her products and ask for a quote. Prices per piece are usually higher than conventional disposable foodware, but not astronomically more. If you buy in bulk, it's cheaper, of course, but Currie's business is unique in that she sells in counts as low as 50, making her products accessible to individuals.

Currie has already signed up clients such as Harpeth Hall School, Tayst restaurant and the Nashville fruit-and-veggie distributor FreshPoint, which offers the containers to its restaurant customers along with the fresh produce.

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