As businesses seek to reduce their environmental impact, eliminating waste from plastics used in take-out and grab-and-go is one significant way food service establishments can go green. Eco-friendly disposables are a recyclable replacement for single-use Styrofoam containers and plastic bags, making your restaurant or catering service environmentally friendly for customers. As you work to make your establishment sustainable, use these types of eco-friendly food packaging to help you reduce waste.
PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic is a strong, lightweight, and clear plastic that does not react with food products. These qualities make it a popular and cost-effective food and beverage packaging option. Plus, PET plastic is an energy-efficient material since it can be recycled multiple times to create new products, allowing manufacturers to reuse it for new food containers.
PLA (polylactic acid) plastic is a thermoplastic typically made from the sugar found in corn, cassava, or sugarcane. The FDA recognizes it as a food-safe packaging material. Typically, manufacturers use it to create eco-friendly containers and cups for food and beverages, and it is also used as a liner in paper hot cups and containers to keep the paper from getting soggy.
Bagasse is a plant-based, tree-free, renewable material made from sugarcane pulp left over after the sugar has been extracted. This fibrous, pulpy material creates durable containers that appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, requiring much less energy to produce than plastic products.
Poly-coated paper containers consist of environmentally friendly, recyclable kraft paper made from renewable resources. They feature added durability from a poly coating to allow you to package a wider variety of foods in both hot and cold applications. Many eco-friendly disposable dinnerware options are also made from this type of material.
It is important to note that some grease-resistant to-go boxes may contain PFAs in the coating and are banned in some states. Check with your local jurisdiction to see if these restrictions impact your business.
Mineral-filled polypropylene contains up to 40% natural mineral content, effectively reducing the amount of plastic used to manufacture each container.
Reusable polypropylene take-out containers are a great way to cut down on disposable costs and reduce waste in universities, cafeterias, retirement communities, and other establishments where many of the same guests frequently return to dine. These can also be great for restaurants looking to implement a rewards program for loyal, conscious consumers. For example, customers can purchase a container upfront, then exchange their used container for a clean one to receive a discount on their meal.
Molded pulp is made from various recycled raw materials, such as paper or cardboard. Then, the pulp fiber is used to create egg and produce cartons, carryout containers, and food service trays.
If you are switching to eco-friendly containers for your take-out or catering service, consider exchanging other items involved in your delivery system for eco-friendly alternatives to keep your brand consistent for consumers. Several eco-friendly products are available to help you replace single-use plastic bags in your establishment for good.
Reusable plastic bags are an ideal option for businesses looking to transition to more earth-friendly alternatives without compromising on the durability or flexibility of traditional plastic bags. Plus, reusable plastic bags are easy to clean with a sanitary wipe.
Combining the convenience of carrying handles with the durability of a paperboard construction, take-out boxes allow you to reduce the number of disposable items needed for your take-out service. These boxes feature an easy-to-assemble, 1-piece design with various closure styles to best fit your needs. Additionally, they come in many sizes with print or solid color options to accommodate any food on your menu. They are especially great for boxed lunches, fried foods, and baked goods.
Styrofoam is a trademarked material commonly used to classify types of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam products. Polystyrene products are recyclable and marked with the recyclable number "6". However, these products are very rarely recycled. Few local governments accept Styrofoam products in curbside recycling bins, and few recycling centers accept and recycle Styrofoam because it can be difficult and expensive. As a result, Styrofoam has become a major environmental problem for a few reasons:
While Styrofoam, or foamed polystyrene, may be a cost-effective solution for your take-out service, it is detrimental to the environment. Many state and local governments have already proposed bans against single-use Styrofoam containers. As the mandates continue to spread nationwide, it may be helpful to reduce your dependency on these products now to stay ahead of the trend. Thankfully, several eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives at a range of price points help reduce your business's carbon footprint and appeal to a wider customer base.
In addition to understanding eco-friendly terms, many other "green" terms are common when marketing eco-friendly products. Learn what they mean so that you can make the most informed purchase for your business.
Bioplastics: Commonly sourced from either starch or cellulose, bioplastics are plastic materials produced from renewable, natural sources such as plants. The most common bioplastics are made from cornstarch, potato starch, trees, and straw.
FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified: Products bearing the FSC label are wood- and paper-based items sourced from responsibly managed forests. This certification ensures that forestry operations support long-term ecological, social, and economic objectives by setting strict, sustainable forest management standards.
Post-Consumer Recycled Content: If these materials have completed their life cycle as consumer items, they are diverted from landfills to create other items.
Pre-Consumer Recycled Content: Also referred to as post-industrial recycled content, these materials are reclaimed waste or excess products from a manufacturing process and reused in later productions to create the same material.
Recycled Content: This term refers to the total percentage of recycled material in a product, including pre-consumer and post-consumer materials.
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