Excellent Packaging launches wheat straw containersExcellent Packaging & Supply recently launched a line of biodegradable dinner ware and clamshell containers made from wheat straw that the company says will help restaurants, caterers and other foodservice operations reduce use of traditional Styrofoam boxes.

The new containers, sold under the Bridge-Gate brand, are free of genetically-modified organisms and will disintegrate “swiftly and safely” in a backyard compost pile or a professionally-managed composting facility, according to a news release.

“Consumers and foodservice businesses are looking for ways to eliminate the use of polystyrene foam for take-out containers and disposable dinnerware,” Allen King, president of Richmond, Cal.-based Excellent Packaging, said in the release.

Criticism of polystyrene, or Styrofoam, has grown in recent years amid concern over pollution and potential health hazards when the product is used for food or drinks. Some claim Styrofoam is difficult to recycle and contributes to litter because it can break up into small pieces that can be carried away by wind or water.

Excellent Packaging’s wheat straw containers offer “superior performance characteristics,” such as greater strength and moisture resistance, compared to similar products made from bamboo or pulp, King said. In a typical home composting pile, the wheat straw containers completely disintegrate in 60 to 90 days, he said.

Bridge-Gate wheat straw dinnerware and takeout containers cost about 10% more than Excellent Packaging’s traditional sugarcane-based products, King said. For example, Bridge-Gate hinged containers range from $59.72 to $73.43 for packages of 200 to 400 units, or 16 cents to 33 cents per unit, according to a company catalog.

Other companies have also recently rolled out similarly-biodegradable food containers made from “natural” materials. In October, Earthcycle Packaging Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia, introduced a line of food trays made from palm fiber the company said will completely decompose in as few as 90 days.