Waste capacity and what happens to our trash

The Waste Capacity Crisis & the Power of Steel: Do you know where your trash goes?

By Team Ahimsa



Time to Read: 8 min

The Waste Capacity Crisis

Ahimsa was founded simply to DO better and BE better for our kids and our planet. With the health and safety of children in mind, Dr. Mantravadi designed products that were made of safer materials and encouraged healthy eating habits. Her family’s mission to be kind to Mother Earth influenced not only the design of the products (made to be reused, re-purposed, and passed on for generations) but also the details of the packaging. She and a friend sat at a kitchen table and stacked the products repetitively so they could figure out a way to keep the footprint of the package minimal - reduce every ounce of waste possible. She only wanted 100% recyclable materials and to avoid using any plastic - no plastic ties to hold cutlery in place and no microplastic for a fancy shiny box. 

About Ahimsa

Founded by a pediatrician and mom of three

Stainless steel is the only kid-friendly material recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics 

We are guided by a Scientific Advisory Council comprised of environmental and medical experts, guiding us in creating the safest products, following the latest science and promoting policy to protect human health and our planet

Want to know more? Check out our story and our products

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 8% of generated plastics are recycled and the remaining tons end up in landfills. Plastic takes more than 400 years to decompose according to National Geographic — meaning that all plastic ever created likely still exists in some form.

The Crisis

We have a waste capacity crisis. So much of what we attempt to recycle ends up in landfills. All plastics are not made the same and actually only a small fraction go on to be recycled and reused. Those plastic grocery bags? Nope. Not in most cases anyway. The way they shred they can get tangled up and clog recycling equipment so more often, they end up in a landfill. Also, if you recycle improperly, what some call “wish-cycling,” one contaminated item can spoil a whole batch of things that otherwise could have been recycled. That one dirty milk jug just sent a whole bag of recyclables to the landfill. Greasy pizza boxes? Contaminated. Earth 911 (GREAT resource!) says you either have to remove the greasy parts and recycle the clean parts or trash the whole box. 

We often talk about plastic and pollution to our ocean. We often see disturbing images of plastic rings and trash encroaching on ocean animals. What is hidden from most of us is the growing volume in our landfills. 

The EPA has documents dating back to at least 1989 referencing the landfill dilemma – landfills getting to critical levels without backups ready to go. That “Agenda for Action” document also suggests making more landfill space should be of lower priority … falling behind “source reduction, reuse and recycling.” The EPA says the United States is the #1 producer of waste in the world. A rate that grows with each passing year.

In 2018, thousands of landfills are at capacity, leaching harmful toxins into the air we breathe, the water we drink. The Solid Waste Environmental Excellence Protocol (SWEEP) says we have a waste and recycling crisis on our hands. Americans continue to consume more, producing more waste. For decades the U.S. would send the bulk of its recycling to China. China ended the program and now much of what would have been sent overseas is ending up in US landfills. Multiple reports cite the Waste Business Journal’s data that by next year there could only be 15 years of capacity left in our country’s landfills. 

Not only are landfills filling up, there’s a bigger problem. According to the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), landfills emit harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Specifically methane and hydrogen sulfide. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says all of us are breathing in at least some methane every time we go outside and says it comes “from vehicle exhaust, oil and gas fields, coal mines, coal-fired power plants, landfills, and farms.”

Our Solution

The United States is going in the wrong direction. We have more than doubled the amount of plastic produced over the last 30 years and increased the tonnage recycled only a fraction by comparison. 

Enter: Ahimsa. The first and only colorful stainless steel dinnerware for kids. Yes, our dinnerware is super cool, nontoxic, loved by kids and easy to clean … it also will save tons of waste. All those paper and plastic plates? The “reusable” plastic goods that you replace year after year? The cups you throw out because “Mickey” is rubbed off? So. Much. Waste. 

Not only will Ahimsa dinnerware not crack, chip or peel - it won’t break or change in composition. You buy a set today and your great, great, great, great (yes, we can keep going) - children could, in theory, eat off of it.

If, for some crazy reason you did not want your Ahimsa set down the road … and then an even crazier phenomenon occurred like you’re unable to find a nice home for that set - stainless steel is in HIGH DEMAND at scrap yards! And Ahimsa is made up of the Cadillac of stainless steel: grade 304. We have gone to great lengths to ensure quality - running tests that are not necessary on any level by multiple different facilities. Not only can you take them to be recycled, but you’ll likely get paid for them. Scrap yards will literally pay you to take Ahimsa dinnerware, recycle it and voila. Nothing in the landfill. Zilch. Nada. That goes for our packaging too. No plastic. All clean, uncontaminated, recyclable cardboard.

If you don’t buy Ahimsa, we hope you will be mindful of what you are buying and using. Sure, we’ve talked about harmful chemicals that can leach from plastic into your children’s food. That in itself likely serves as more than enough reason to assess what’s in your cabinets. Once you find products that satisfy that requirement, look beyond there. Silicone? While it is widely accepted as more environmentally friendly and less toxic than plastic, it is extremely difficult to recycle.

Every facet of Ahimsa dinnerware is designed to make our kids and our planet healthier and safer. We are NOT product pushers. And our founder, Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, would never have started this venture if she didn’t see a crucial need for it. 

She actually wants you to BUY LESS STUFF. Her children’s first plates were the ones she grew up using in India. They’re still in her cabinet now, proudly sitting after 30 years next to her new colorful Ahimsa dinnerware. Together, they hope to sit for another 30 years and one day, serve healthy meals to her own grandchildren. 


National Geographic - plastic decomposition

Earth 911

EPA Environmental Factoids

NJ Health Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet

EPA Plastics Data

EPA The Solid Waste Dilemma: An Agenda for Action

SWEEP: Time is Running Out: The U.S. Landfill Capacity Crisis

Madison Magazine: There's no time to waste

RecycleBank: What Is Silicone And How Green Is It?

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi is a board-certified pediatrician whose dedication to children’s health drove her to launch Ahimsa, the world's first colorful stainless steel dishes for kids. She was motivated by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ findings on harmful chemicals in plastic affecting children's well-being. Ahimsa has gained widespread recognition and been featured in media outlets such as Parents Magazine, the Today Show, The Oprah Magazine, and more.

Dr. Mantravadi received the esteemed “Physician Mentor of the Year” award at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2019. She was also named a Forbes Next 1000 Entrepreneur in 2021, with her inspiring story showcased on Good Morning America. She serves on the Council for Environmental Health and Climate Change and the Council for School Health at The American Academy of Pediatrics. She represents Ahimsa as a U.S. industry stakeholder on the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the Global Plastics Treaty, led by the United Nations Environment Program. Dr. Mantravadi leads Ahimsa's social impact program, The Conscious Cafeteria Project, to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard student health as part of a national pilot of the Clinton Global Initiative.

She is dedicated to educating and empowering people to make healthier, more environmentally friendly choices at mealtime. Her mission remains to advocate for the health of all children and the one planet we will leave behind for them through real policy change within our food system.

More Mealtime Essentials

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I use stainless steel instead of plastic? Is stainless steel better for health?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report in July 2018 suggesting ways that families can limit exposure to certain chemicals at mealtime, including “the use of alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.” The report explained that “…some additives are put directly in foods, while “indirect” additives may include chemicals from plastic, glues, dyes, paper, cardboard”. Further, “Children are more sensitive to chemical exposures because they eat and drink more, relative to body weight, than adults do, and are still growing and developing.” While stainless steel items meet the recommendation to avoid plastic products in children, Ahimsa® products have the obvious advantage of not breaking like glass.

Is stainless steel better for the environment than plastic?

According to the Steel Recycling Institute, steel can be recycled over and over and over again without losing its integrity and requires less energy to recycle than to make anew. Most plastic unfortunately ends up in landfills and it is estimated to take 700 years to decompose. Our special coloring process that allows Ahimsa® products to be fully metal is environmentally friendly, so it does not produce toxic run-off into the ecosystem.

Will Ahimsa products break or peel?

No. Our steel is durable, so it won’t break or shatter with everyday use, like glass. And it won’t peel, like other colored stainless steel products you’ve seen. We use a special process that allows the colors to naturally occur in the metal.

Which Ahimsa products are best for my little one(s)?

Our products are meant to last, you can use Ahimsa at ages 1, 8 and 18! We thoughtfully design our products to be safe for little ones and our planet while reducing consumption. Once your child outgrows the Starting Solids Set  and can use regular cups and utensils, the training cup is the perfect size rinse cup in the bathroom, the infant spoon doubles as a tea stirrer and the bowl is great for snacks or as an additional compartment to our modular divided plate. Our plates are great for any age as they encourage choosing a variety of healthy foods at each meal and help visualize portion sizes easily. It’s the lasting beauty of stainless steel - grows with your child and reduces waste.

Leave a comment