A Biodegradable Disposable Cardboard Barbecue Grill?

August 17, 2017 by

When I think disposable, I think landfill. So when I heard about the new $8 biodegradable and disposable cardboard CasusGrill, I thought, wow, this has everything–environmentally friendly, convenient, easy to use, and so compact and lightweight you can throw it in your backpack before you hit the trail or beach and you don’t have to carry it home.

It’s easy to light, quickly reaches grilling temperature in only five minutes, and maintains a high, even temperature for approximately 60 minutes. And to boot, it’s a really nicely designed flat pack product.

The CasusGrill is made of FSC® certified cardboard, untreated bamboo, Quick Oxylite™ bamboo charcoal briquettes, and lightweight Perlite lava stones (Perlite is a non-organic additive that some gardeners use to aerate soil.) The lava stones provide thermal insulation to keep the grill cool enough for you to pick up with bare hands during and after use. 

There’s Biodegradable and There’s Biodegradable
The grill’s makers say that after use, one can simply toss it in a bonfire or leave on the ground to decompose naturally. Here’s the rub: a “biodegradable” product breaks down relatively quickly without harming the environment. It depends on where the item is disposed and requires certain specific conditions in order to biodegrade properly (micro-organisms, temperature, and humidity.) Biodegradable plastic bags, for example, need to go to a commercial composting facility, where microbes will break down the material. Problem is there are only 107 communities nationwide that offer compost collection (17 are in California.)

Some other biodegradable items may eventually degrade at some point, but that could take a very long time. And nothing is biodegradable in a landfill, including a carrot. Food scraps like carrots are compostable, but rotting in a landfill, the decomposing organic waste will release methane, a greenhouse gas 35 times more potent than carbon dioxide and a major component of global warming.

A Bit’o Greenwashing?
Is it greenwashing for the CasusGrill folks to suggest the product is completely biodegradable? A bit, because not all of the grill biodegrades after use.

Natural Versus Biodegradable
The grill’s “lava stones” are made from Perlite, a “natural” volcanic glass that isn’t biodegradable. Nor is it particularly sustainable. Perlite is excavated in a process called open-pit mining. A document published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Terrascope Mission 2016: Strategic Mineral Management, describes open-pit mining as “particularly damaging to the environment.”

The MIT report states, “Environmental hazards are present during every step of the open-pit mining process. Hardrock mining exposes rock that has lain unexposed for geological eras. When crushed, these rocks expose radioactive elements, asbestos-like minerals, and metallic dust. During separation, residual rock slurries, which are mixtures of pulverized rock and liquid, are produced as tailings, toxic and radioactive elements from these liquids can leak into bedrock if not properly contained.”

I contacted CasusGrill Founder and CEO, Carsten Nygaard Brøgger, to ask about their claim that the grill is 100% biodegradable. Brøgger responded by email, “It is not possible to produce any items without it having impact on our planet. However, there are products that are more environmentally friendly than others. Our motto is that: we must make a difference. CasusGrill makes a difference in comparison to the traditional well-known aluminum disposable grill.”

True, the product goes a long way toward being eco-friendly, certainly more so than disposable aluminum grills that take over 400 years to decompose. And points for trying to make a difference, but the company still encourages users to toss a non-biodegradable material that it says will decompose naturally. If I were out hiking and came across a trashed cardboard grill, I would just think someone littered the trail. Trash is trash.

The company hopes to become a role model for the BBQ market by producing and selling organic, biodegradable, and disposable barbecues at an affordable price. I applaud the effort, but in the meantime, I would encourage them to find a truly biodegradable substitute for those all natural lava stones. 


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