Takeout and delivery food orders generate enormous amounts of waste. When hungry consumers finish their burgers, bahn mi, tacos, and tofu, they toss out cups, boxes, bowls, and utensils. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that before the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans generated 80.1 million tons of packaging waste, most of it plastic, every year. Food business owners need to start doing something about this.
The pandemic has made the plastics problem even worse.
Food Delivery and the Pandemic Are Causing a Waste Crisis
Home delivery is booming. DoorDash, for instance, more than doubled its sales during the first four months of this year. Millions of orders go out each day in plastic boxes and plastic cups packaged with plastic utensils in plastic bags.
Add the increased plastic waste generated by surging home delivery to the plastic waste resulting from plastic gowns, plastic masks, and plastic personal protective equipment, and a crisis in waste proposal results.
All of this is coming at precisely a time when most Americans have come to favor recycling.
According to a 2019 Pew Research survey, 72 percent of Americans actively try to reduce their use of plastics. The average American family puts a pound of plastics into the recycling bin every day. Tens of millions of Americans are abandoning the use of plastic straws to protect wildlife, and a PBS NewsHour and Marist poll found that nearly a quarter of Americans are willing to pay more to avoid using plastic.
So, food business owners of America, isn’t time you started offering your customers biodegradable food containers?
Food Business Owners Need To Change Their Ways
Biodegradable food containers become food for friendly microorganisms. When your customers toss their biodegradable food containers into their recycling bins, these containers find their way to places where they are biofragmented into tiny particles by bacteria, molds, and fungi. It is possible to manage the collection of biodegradable waste so that it generates marketable natural gas, providing relatively clean-burning energy that doesn’t have to be produced with the help of fracking or imported from the other side of the world.
It’s true that your customers will have to be served by a commercial composting facility for biodegradable food containers to be truly biodegradable. They don’t break down naturally if they are just tossed in the trash with everything else. If they wind up in a landfill, they will generate natural gas, but the environmental benefit of this process requires a well and a generator operated by the waste management company.
This is Helpful for Your Bottom Line
Biodegradable food containers aren’t just healthy for the environment, but they are also helpful for the restaurant’s bottom line. You may say, What? Don’t biodegradable containers cost more per unit than aluminum (which your customers can reuse at home), polypropylene (reusable at home nd sometimes accepted for curbside recycling), and polyethylene (which doesn’t stand up for multiple uses at home but is accepted at nearly all recycling centers)?
You would be right. The unit cost of traditional throw-away and recyclable containers is a few pennies higher per unit. But if your community has commercial composting, you have an opportunity to cultivate a relationship with environmentally conscious customers who don’t mind paying just a little more for green, environmentally friendly packaging. They will order from you more often, and they will bring their friends and neighbors who have similar commitments to sustainability to your business.
You aren’t limited to building your brand around great food. You can also build your brand on the basis of being a good citizen in a community of good citizens. Consumers are increasingly looking for brands that are socially and environmentally conscious, so going biodegradable is a step in the right direction.
Consider finding a food container partner that provides the best value in biodegradable food containers for commercial establishments. With the right supplier, you will never have to choose between high-quality containers and sustainable, compostable containers.
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Fallon Chan is a food and lifestyle photographer and blogger.