It’s no secret that the restaurant industry relies heavily on food packaging, especially for takeout. On average, 60% of consumers¹ order takeout once a week. As dining-out options continue to rise in popularity, so does the need for single-use food packaging.
As more people learn about the damage single-use plastic packaging can cause, there is a growing interest in finding sustainable food packaging solutions². If you work in the restaurant industry, it’s more important than ever to utilize eco-friendly food packaging to meet consumers’ wants and needs.
The Harms of Traditional Food Packaging
Ordering takeout has grown in popularity because of its convenience, which has increased the need for food packaging. Most takeout containers, utensils, and packaging are made from materials that harm the environment, like plastic and styrofoam.
What’s the big deal about plastic and styrofoam? Plastic production contributes to 52 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year³, adversely contributing to climate change and air pollution. Plus, non-bioplastics also deplete non-renewable resources like petroleum and natural gas.
Styrofoam is a type of plastic made from polystyrene commonly used for food packaging. Its production and usage plays a role in the buildup of landfills and even in global warming. On average, the United States produces 3 million tons of Styrofoam each year, producing 21 million tons of CO2 equivalent that are pushed into the atmosphere⁴.
Plastic Usage Impacts The Environment & Beyond
Using plastic and Styrofoam for food packaging harms the earth in more ways than one. Along with contributing to climate change, these products affect the health and well-being of wildlife and people.
The harmful disposal of plastic has only worsened the already-large issue of ocean pollution. As these items have accumulated, it has posed a serious risk to sea life. In fact, around 700 marine species⁵ are adversely affected by plastic waste.
Styrofoam packaging also puts the health and safety of our environment at risk. It is harmful to the environment because it is non-biodegradable, breaks into very small particles, and persists for long periods of time. Animals often mistake the small broken-down particles for food. Ingesting Styrofoam can lead to death from choking, starvation, or the build-up of chemicals in an animal’s digestive system.
The harmful effects of plastic aren’t just contained to the environment, either. According to National Geographic, humans may consume around 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles⁶ a year. Research shows that the effect of consuming microplastics can be linked to serious health issues, but the long-term effects are still unknown until more time elapses⁷.
A Growing Consumer Interest in Sustainable Food Packaging
Plastic packaging’s disruption to the environment has understandably produced serious concerns among consumers. In fact, 55% of consumers⁸ worry about how their food packaging affects the environment. An even larger 60-70% claim⁹ they are willing to pay more for a product made out of sustainable materials.
Why You Should Use Eco-Friendly Food Packaging
Now is an important time for restaurant owners to address their customer's needs and build loyalty by transitioning to eco-friendly food packaging. By ditching single-use plastic packaging and styrofoam cups and containers, you will be doing your part to help the environment.
Using compostable packaging is a great way to help combat climate change. It is also a way to cut down on waste caused by the food industry¹⁰, as the packaging naturally degrades over time instead of taking up space in landfills. Plus, eco-friendly container options are a healthier alternative to traditional plastic packaging since they are made without toxic chemicals.
Ditching Styrofoam packaging helps reduce the amount of non-renewable resources used for production. Plus, the less we use Styrofoam products, the more protected wildlife and the environment is. Making the switch to eco-friendly takeout containers is an easy choice.
¹ Elad, Barry. “Interesting Online Food Ordering Statistics for 2022 That You Need to Know.” Enterprise Apps Today, 6 Aug. 2022, https://www.enterpriseappstoday.com/stats/online-food-ordering-statistics.html#:~:text=food%20ordering%20statistics.-,Key%20Online%20Food%20Ordering%20Statistics%20(Editor's%20Choice),in%20the%20US%20in%202020.
² Campisi, Victoria. “The Rise of Food Packaging Sustainability.” The Food Institute, 13 Apr. 2022, https://foodinstitute.com/focus/the-rise-of-food-packaging-sustainability/.
³ EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks.
⁴ “Sustainable Packaging in the Food and Grocery Industry: What You Need to Know.” Edge2Edge, 19 May 2021, https://www.e2epkg.com/sustainable-food-packaging/.
⁵ “Ocean Plastics Pollution.” Ocean Plastics Pollution, https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/ocean_plastics/.
⁶ Gibbens, Sarah. “The Average Person Eats Thousands of Plastic Particles Every Year, Study Finds.” Environment, National Geographic, 3 May 2021, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/you-eat-thousands-of-bits-of-plastic-every-year.
⁷ Environ. Sci. Technol. 2019, 53, 12, 7068–7074. Publication Date:June 5, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b01517, Copyright © 2019 American Chemical Society
⁸ Feber, David, et al. “Sustainability in Packaging: Inside the Minds of US Consumers.” McKinsey & Company, McKinsey & Company, 21 Oct. 2020, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/paper-forest-products-and-packaging/our-insights/sustainability-in-packaging-inside-the-minds-of-us-consumers.
⁹ “Sustainable Packaging in the Food and Grocery Industry: What You Need to Know.” Edge2Edge, 19 May 2021, https://www.e2epkg.com/sustainable-food-packaging/.
¹⁰ “Biodegradable Packaging: How It Works, Definition & Benefits.” T I P A, 16 July 2022, https://tipa-corp.com/biodegradable-packaging/.