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Types of Eco-Friendly Food Packaging

Switching from single-use Styrofoam containers and plastic bags to more eco-friendly disposables is an easy way for your business to reduce its environmental impact while appealing to your customers. Whether you’re looking for eco-friendly materials to align with your sustainable menu or to comply with new regulations, there is an eco-friendly food packaging solution for you!

Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Styrofoam Take-Out Containers

From reusable options to recycled plastic and paper materials or completely plant-based materials, there is a greener option that will suit every business’s needs.

PET Plastic Containers

PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic is a strong, lightweight, and clear plastic that does not react with food products, making it a popular and cost-effective option for packaging foods and beverages. Plus, because of its ability to be recycled multiple times to create new products, PET plastic is an energy-efficient plastic and many food containers are often made with recycled content. 

  • Durable, shatterproof construction
  • Most are freezer safe, making them great for transporting cold foods
  • 100% recyclable; most easily and commonly recycled plastic
  • BPA-free
  • Derived from recycled petroleum-based plastics

PLA Plastic Containers

PLA (polylactic acid) plastic is a thermoplastic typically made from the sugars in corn, cassava, or sugarcane. The FDA recognizes it as a food safe packaging material. It is typically used 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.

  • Suitable for both hot and cold applications
  • Has a smaller carbon footprint than traditional plastics
  • BPA-free
  • Only compostable under industrial composting conditions
  • Not all PLA plastics are created equal – some crops used to create the plastics could have been grown with non-eco-friendly fertilizers and pesticides
  • Because they are chemically different, they must be properly recycled separate from traditional plastics; 

Sugarcane / bagasse is a plant-based, tree-free, renewable material made from the waste of sugarcane plants leftover after the sugar has been extracted. This fibrous, pulpy material is used to create durable containers that appeal to environmentally conscious consumers and requires much less energy to produce than plastic products.

  • Suitable for both hot and cold applications
  • Sturdy enough to handle greasy foods
  • 100% biodegradable and compostable
  • Microwave and refrigerator safe
  • Unbleached design does not contain toxic dyes
  • Must be composted in a commercial composting facility
  • More costly than other foam alternatives

Poly-coated Kraft Paper Containers

Poly-coated paper containers consist of environmentally friendly, recyclable kraft paper, which is 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. It is important to note the some grease-resistant to-go boxes may contain PFAs in the coating and are banned in some states. Be sure to check with your local jusidiction to see if your business is impacted by these restrictions. 

  • Leak- and grease-resistant, making them strong enough to hold up to sauces, gravies, and oils
  • Breathable to let steam and moisture out to prevent foods from getting soggy
  • Natural kraft color does not contain toxic dyes
  • Recyclable and typically contains recycled content
  • Poly coating makes the material harder to recycle
  • May not be sourced from sustainably managed forests

Mineral-Filled Polypropylene Containers

Mineral-filled polypropylene contains up to 40% natural mineral content, which effectively reduces the amount of plastic used to manufacture each container.

  • Durable, cut-resistant construction
  • Non-absorbent and leak-resistant, making them great for holding saucy foods
  • Suitable for both hot and cold applications
  • Microwaveable
  • Recyclable at the end of their service life
  • Still made with non-renewable plastic material

Reusable Polypropylene Containers

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 and with every time they exchange their used container for a clean one, they receive a discount on their meal.

  • 100% BPA-free
  • Microwave-safe and dishwasher-safe
  • Durable, break-resistant and leak-resistant design
  • Each container can be used for up to 1000 uses
  • Recyclable at the end of their service life
  • Higher initial cost than other eco-friendly options
  • Not a cost-effective option for businesses in more tourist-central locations or locations that mainly serve guests that aren’t likely to return frequently

Molded Pulp Fiber Containers

Molded pulp is made from a variety of recycled raw materials, such as paper or cardboard. Pulp fiber is used to create egg and produce cartons, carryout containers, and foodservice trays.

  • Made from recycled content and renewable resources
  • Typically biodegradable and/or compostable
  • Typically do not contain chemical additives, coatings, or dyes
  • Not all molded pulp is created equal due to the properties of the different fibers used



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