As the climate continues to change and the planet's population continues headlong with explosive growth, more and more people face outright water shortages that threaten their local cultures, and even life itself.
The New York Times has published a very good article explaining the issue:
Composting and compostable products can make a difference in fighting this growing problem. For instance, when compost is used on soil, it retains more water for plants to grow and, once it returns to the water table, for people to drink. It has been found that decades of heavy use of artificial fertilizers causes soil to become hard. Hard soil is less capable of holding water and other needed nutrients, so it requires still more artificial fertilizers and other actions to continue to grow food. However, when farmers used or reverted to using compost, their fields became more moisture-retentive, required less irrigation, and the soil become more nutritious and generally more productive.
Another area in which compostable products are effective at fighting water shortage is as single-use foodservice items. Not only are they simple and sanitary but when disposed of, they create new toxin-free soil humus which adds water-retention benefits for good plant growth. And they reduce the need for water and chemicals used in washing standard reusable products like standard china plates, glasses, thermos, etc.
Don't get us wrong, we certainly support the use of reusable products in some applications but they are not a panacea, as they require water for properly washing and rinsing, energy to heat and pump said water, chemicals like soaps and rinse agents to clean, sanitize, and prevent spotting, and energy to run a dishwasher. Compared to the energy used to make and transport compostable tableware, the carbon energy footprint is, in many instances, actually less for the compostable goods than the traditional ones.
To grasp the real cost of traditional reusable goods, you must look past the immediate use and consider the supply chain as a whole. While energy from renewable sources like wind and solar is becoming more readily available, most of the electrical energy used in washing traditional tableware still comes from fossil-based fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. And the soaps and rinse chemicals used for washing dishes are all petroleum-based in some form or fashion, costing energy at each step in their processing from time they were pumped out of the ground as raw crude oil until they become the product you are using. Finally, you need still more energy to run a wastewater treatment plant to try to remove those chemicals before returning the water to the environment. Once you consider all of the factors involved, the benefits compostable products often far outweigh any perceived advantages of standard china or metal tableware.