I recently had the opportunity to use the new Farberware EcoFresh plastic containers which are made from biodegradable plastic. I was, as always, skeptical about the quality and durability, but intrigued by the forward thinking idea.

Farberware EcoFresh

Farberware EcoFresh

The Technology

There is a big concern over plastics these days, but then again, what aren’t we worried about? The main concerns with plastics are the Bisphenol (BPA) in the plastic and then the environmental pollution after we dispose of them. This second issue is where the biodegradable plastic comes into play.

The Farberware containers use a product called EcoPure. According to the company’s website – EcoPure® is a second generation additive, which once added to a resin type during the manufacturing process, renders plastics biodegradable. Various ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) testing methods have proven that EcoPure is biodegradable, including the ASTM D5511-02, which confirms that products will biodegrade when placed into an aerobic or anaerobic environment, such as a landfill.

The publicly available test results have shown that EcoPure allows microbes to break down the structure of plastics by up to 45% in as little as 15 days. EcoPure also meets the very stringent toxicity standards of the state of California.

The fact that EcoPure works via microbes makes this product different from the other biodegradable and degradable products, which are broken down by heat, moisture, UV light or mechanical stress. EcoPure only begins breaking down once it is in a landfill environment, and takes approximately 2-10 years to fully biodegrade, depending on composition and microbial enrichment in the landfill.

Initial Impressions

My first thought about this product’s ability to breakdown in the landfill revolved around how durable the product would be under daily use. My simple mind says, “Hey, if it breaks down in a landfill, it will fall apart while holding leftover soup.” The fascinating aspect of this additive is that the biodegradation process begins only when the plastic is placed into the landfill. The microbes are attracted to the plastic, colonize on the surface, then begin to break down and digest the plastic. And of course, during my usage, I have not observed any structural problems.

The other thought I had was that the plastic would be too flimsy. This also has not been the case. While Farberware containers are more flexible than typical plastic storage containers, they are more rigid and supportive than the other brand name “disposable” containers.

I was also concerned about their ability to hold up in the freezer and microwave, but again they have proven versatile and strong. The company conducted various trials that have shown that EcoPure can withstand temperatures up to 550°+ F. The containers are free from BPA, the main concern lately of most plastic products. I have not found that cooking food in the microwave in the Farberware containers leaves any damaging marks on the interior. In the past, before we were all told not to use plastic in the microwave, I noticed many plastic containers would scar or deteriorate while reheating food. I have not noticed any changes to the shape or function while in the freezer or microwave. With other plastic storage containers, I have noticed that over time lids will not fit correctly or the container itself would warp under more extreme temperatures. [Note that I don't typically reheat food in plastic storage containers in the microwave.]

Additionally I have not seen any changes after trips through the dishwasher. The lid does not have any hidden ridges where water can be trapped. This is most prevalent in dishwashers without a heating element: the water does not dry completely in deep crevices.

Both my wife and I like other aspects of the lid design such as how it locks securely on the container without leaking or taking up internal space. Also, the containers stack in the refrigerator securely and nest efficiently for easy storage in the cabinet.

The color selections are fun and while the price is a bit more than typical storage containers, the long term value is very good, not only for the home but also for the environment.

One other thought to keep in mind. Due to concerns about plastics in general, you may have switched to glass containers. However, even those have plastic lids and while they may not contain BPA, it is estimated they will last in a landfill in our ecosystem for 800+ years. Because let’s face it, even glass containers break or the lids wear out and adding more permanent items to our landfills is not a good idea.

I know what you may be thinking, most of these standard plastic storage containers can be recycled in the community recycling program. However, not every community in the United States recycles and still others do not recycle as many kinds of plastic as are possible. There are also little known issues surrounding recycling and one is that in many areas, until landfill quotas have been met, recycling isn’t carried out. So given the current state of recycling, I think biodegradable plastic addresses at least one concern. Regardless of your opinions on climate issues, I think we all have to be pleased with the efforts being made to reduce negative affects we are having on the environment.

Summary

Finally, I love the fact that EcoFresh is designed and manufactured in the USA. While there is a company in Germany, BASF, making a similar biodegradable additive it is only used for soft plastics such as bags, films and dry cleaning plastic. I have been very pleased with the EcoFresh containers and hope to add more to my collection.

click to buy Farberware Ecofresh

click to buy Farberware Ecofresh

In addition to buying them online, you can also purchase the Farberware EcoFresh containers at Wegmans, Dollar General, Ross Stores, Tuesday Morning, Rite Aid, Duane Reade and Home Goods/TJ Maxx/Marshall’s.

**Update**
As odd as this may be, I have discovered that these wonderful containers are actually cheaper on the Farberware site. There is a greater selection and better prices than Amazon.com, which is frankly not the norm. Usually, the manufacturer sells the product for more money than most retailers, including Amazon.