With food deliveries and take-out, disposables are a fact of life for most restaurants. Businesses that sell food need to have some way to package them. But not all disposables and packaging are equal, from an environmental viewpoint:
- Locally recycled paper products (with high post-consumer recycled content) require minimal energy and can ultimately be composted
- Bamboo and bagasse (sugar cane waste) are much more quickly renewable than wood for paper
- Bioplastics come from renewable sources and may be compostable (but are not yet recyclable in most locations).
If your waste is commercially composted, disposables used on your premises should be compostable. Some disposables can be avoided. And it’s increasingly possible to find less wasteful packaging solutions made of quickly renewable materials.
Here are some tips and resources:
- Use 100% recycled paper napkins from relatively local mills and look for other locally-recycled paper products.
- Look for disposables made of rapidly renewable materials (e.g. bamboo, bagasse, bioplastics)
- Consider publicizing and/or selling “To-Go Ware” in your establishment. Customers can have their own set, made of sustainable materials
- Have delivery personnel use reuseable bags for their main carrying bags as much as possible, and take the food out when delivering it (think about the pizza delivery model).
- “Lightweight” your packaging. If you deliver frequently to the same customers, re-usable containers are going to start going into the garbage, not the cabinet. Depending on what foods you are packaging, look for ways to use less plastic by using thinner, lighter weight plastic.
- Give incentives to customers who don’t take all the extras (utensils, bag, napkins, etc) – follow the Whole Foods model ($0.05 back if you bring your own bag) – it’s small, but customers realize you care too.
- Minimize take away packaging and materials – ask customers if they need napkins, forks/knives, condiments, a plastic bag