Green option for disposable cutlery

Local resident Miles Fuller was promoting Aspenware Inc. wooden cutlery during a recent council meeting.

Local resident Miles Fuller was promoting Aspenware Inc. wooden cutlery during a recent council meeting.

Fuller who is now a shareholder in the company, said he first came across the wooden cutlery at a wood lot convention. “A few local licensees also invested in the company at the initial stages,” he explained.

Fuller said he wanted council to know that there is a better option available for the environment than the traditional disposable plastic cutlery available.

He said Aspenware Inc. cutlery is all natural, comprised of two thin layers of birch or aspen veneer which is laminated with a safe, edible, U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved binding agent. To eliminate any wooden taste, the eating portion of the cutlery is sprayed with a tasteless, kosher confectioners glaze.

“They tell me the glaze is the same as the coating used on Smarties [candy],” Fuller said.

The retail packaging for the cutlery is also 100 per cent compostable and biodegradable and he said that while the cutlery is marketed and designed for one time use, it could be washed and used several times during a weekend camping trip.

“The cutlery makes use of the wood that no one else in the industry wants,” he said. Aspenware Inc. uses birch that is cut in usual logging operations. Fuller said much of this unwanted timber is traditionally left to rot, or is burned in slash piles. One logging truck load of timber makes up to one million knives.

“Aspenware Inc. produces 11 times more jobs per cubic metre of timber than conventional sawmills,” he said.

Previously the wooden cutlery cost more to purchase than plastic, however the company is looking to expand operations and put in generation two machinery, which will update the manufacturing process.

“The generation one machine processed 40,000 to 50,000 utensils per day making them 67 cents a piece, which put them in a niche market. Now with the generation two machine coming online 40,000 to 50,000 utensils will be produced in one hour, which brings the price down, making them very price competitive with plastic.”

It is being produced in factories in Lumby and Vernon, however Fuller said the company’s expansion plans could also extend to Burns Lake in the future.

“Aspenware Inc. was on the verge of expanding when the Babine Forest Products explosion and fire happened and now they are seriously looking at putting a plant in Burns Lake,” Fuller said.

Councillor Quentin Beach asked Fuller how much employment a plant would generate in the local area.

“They would need approximately 120 people for the plant. They are looking to expand from cutlery to small disposable bowls and are working to get funding in line to do this. The company is working with a Malaysian distributor and the bowls would be shipped to the South East Asian market.”

Lawrence Lund, director of communications with Aspenware Inc. said to Lakes District News, “I can say that locating a second facility in Northern B.C. has always been a consideration and is part of our overall long term business plan. I can also confirm there has indeed, been more recent discussions initiated by the provincial, regional and local governments as well as other stakeholders in light of the recent tragic events involving the Hampton Affiliates, Babine Forest Products sawmill closure.”

He said, “Obviously the unfortunate social and economic impact the tragedy is having  on the community of Burns Lake and the entire region, is of the utmost concern to us all in the North, so the question is being asked if we would consider expediting our expansion plans to become a  part of the Burns Lake community’s recovery as a potential employer?”

Lund said that while he could not confirm if a plant is to be located in Burns Lake, he could confirm that the Aspenware Inc. board of directors is discussing the possibility.

“As for the amount of fibre resources needed and the number of anticipated jobs, it is a bit premature to disclose those numbers.”

He said, “We have been careful to build a sustainable business model and should the decision be made to locate a plant in Burns Lake, the community can be assured our plans will be long term with significant growth and overall commitment to the region.”

“As discussions continue between our respective leaders and our plans materialize, we hope that Aspenware Inc. can begin to play a small, but significant role in the regions bright future,” Lund added.

In keeping with the focus on the environment and sustainability, Aspenware Inc. wooden disposable  cutlery will be used at the up and coming Minerals North 2012 conference, to be held in Burns Lake from May 23 to 25.