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Metro Health Introduces Environmentally Friendly Cafeteria Ware

Posted: July 31, 2007

July 31, 2007

The new plates and cups at the Metro Health Hospital cafeteria are good enough to eat – almost.

As part of its commitment to sustainable business practices, the hospital has introduced biodegradable and compostable plates, water cups and parfait cups in its cafeteria. The initial cost to research and select the “bioware” products now being used was funded by a $6,000 grant from the Michigan Energy Office.

The plates and cups, which are made from sugar cane and corn, are landfill-friendly and will decompose in a matter of months. When contrasted against the plastic and Styrofoam items they are replacing, which can spend up to 700 years in a landfill before decomposing, the decision was an easy one, according to John Ebers.

“People love the bioware,” said Ebers, Metro Health’s sustainable business officer. “We have had a lot of positive comments about the new plates and cups from hospital guests and employees since introducing the products a few weeks ago.

“Utilizing green products such as bioware is one of the many ways that Metro Health is working to be a good corporate citizen. These products wound up being cost-neutral to the hospital, allowing us to be good financial stewards of our resources as well.”

Ebers said a team from Metro Health spent about 18 months evaluating a multitude of biodegradable kitchenware products for potential use in the hospital cafeteria. The products, which ranged from corn and sugar cane to limestone, were tested to see how they impacted a wide range of culinary questions, from the taste of the food served to how gravies and sauces worked.

Metro Health selected products from two different vendors:
· Biodegradable plates from Nature Friendly Products that utilize bagasse, or the outer husk of the sugar cane plant
· Parfait and water cups that are derived for corn and made by NatureWorks

“It’s impossible to tell the new cups from everyday clear plastic cups, unless you look at the bottom and see the stamp,” Ebers said. “We opted to start with plates and cups because these are high-volume items in the cafeteria.

“Each year, we use more than 190,000 plates and more than 90,000 cups. Switching just these products to bioware will have a large initial impact for us.”

As the second phase to its bioware project, Metro Health is exploring additional earth-friendly products in its cafeteria, including napkins and utensils. The hospital is also looking for a partner who will be able to handle composting all of its fruits, vegetables and other appropriate food waste, including its bioware plates and cups.

Ebers estimated that composting such products would divert more than 70 tons of garbage from going to the landfill each year and generate thousands of pounds of fertilizer for grounds maintenance and gardens.

About Metro Health
Metro Health is a regional health-care organization with a 238-bed general acute care osteopathic teaching hospital and 10 neighborhood outpatient centers, serving more than 130,000 patients in Kent and surrounding counties. Metro offers a broad range of services, including hospital inpatient and outpatient services, emergency, surgery, intensive care and rehabilitation. Physician, therapy and diagnostic services are offered in its 10 neighborhood centers. Metro’s work is supported by the Metro Health Hospital Foundation, which is a charitable organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the West Michigan community through philanthropy.

The new plates and cups at the Metro Health Hospital cafeteria are good enough to eat – almost.

As part of its commitment to sustainable business practices, the hospital has introduced biodegradable and compostable plates, water cups and parfait cups in its cafeteria. The initial cost to research and select the “bioware” products now being used was funded by a $6,000 grant from the Michigan Energy Office.

The plates and cups, which are made from sugar cane and corn, are landfill-friendly and will decompose in a matter of months. When contrasted against the plastic and Styrofoam items they are replacing, which can spend up to 700 years in a landfill before decomposing, the decision was an easy one, according to John Ebers.

“People love the bioware,” said Ebers, Metro Health’s sustainable business officer. “We have had a lot of positive comments about the new plates and cups from hospital guests and employees since introducing the products a few weeks ago.

“Utilizing green products such as bioware is one of the many ways that Metro Health is working to be a good corporate citizen. These products wound up being cost-neutral to the hospital, allowing us to be good financial stewards of our resources as well.”

Ebers said a team from Metro Health spent about 18 months evaluating a multitude of biodegradable kitchenware products for potential use in the hospital cafeteria. The products, which ranged from corn and sugar cane to limestone, were tested to see how they impacted a wide range of culinary questions, from the taste of the food served to how gravies and sauces worked.

Metro Health selected products from two different vendors:
· Biodegradable plates from Nature Friendly Products that utilize bagasse, or the outer husk of the sugar cane plant
· Parfait and water cups that are derived for corn and made by NatureWorks

“It’s impossible to tell the new cups from everyday clear plastic cups, unless you look at the bottom and see the stamp,” Ebers said. “We opted to start with plates and cups because these are high-volume items in the cafeteria.

“Each year, we use more than 190,000 plates and more than 90,000 cups. Switching just these products to bioware will have a large initial impact for us.”

As the second phase to its bioware project, Metro Health is exploring additional earth-friendly products in its cafeteria, including napkins and utensils. The hospital is also looking for a partner who will be able to handle composting all of its fruits, vegetables and other appropriate food waste, including its bioware plates and cups.

Ebers estimated that composting such products would divert more than 70 tons of garbage from going to the landfill each year and generate thousands of pounds of fertilizer for grounds maintenance and gardens.

About Metro Health
Metro Health is a regional health-care organization with a 238-bed general acute care osteopathic teaching hospital and 10 neighborhood outpatient centers, serving more than 130,000 patients in Kent and surrounding counties. Metro offers a broad range of services, including hospital inpatient and outpatient services, emergency, surgery, intensive care and rehabilitation. Physician, therapy and diagnostic services are offered in its 10 neighborhood centers. Metro’s work is supported by the Metro Health Hospital Foundation, which is a charitable organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the West Michigan community through philanthropy.



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