Sustainability: The art and science of reducing food packaging in all food service outlets

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The art and science of reducing food packaging in all food service outlets

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Single-use food & beverage packaging has always been a concern for the environment and with recent high profile campaigns seeking to ban single use plastics, governments are now looking to legislate in line with community expectations. The SA government looks set to be the first to draft legislation later this year banning certain single-use plastic products and intend to introduce into Parliament in 2020. The packaging industry however has already been responding to community and business concerns with a range of different options to suit different requirements. Many food businesses both large and small have been using recycled cups and containers and/or compostable systems as proven solutions to reduce their carbon footprint. Unsurprisingly, the retail food and food service industries are the primary users globally of single-use food and beverage packaging. Just think of the throw-away coffee cup we buy every day and you will know exactly what I mean  - if not, essential viewing - ABC War on Waste - #BYOCoffeeCup tram. Things have to change, and they are.

If your food business is looking for environmentally friendly ways to package food for take away, then compostable or reusable food packaging could be just the thing. There are options for coffee cups, plates, bowls, lids, cutlery and other items and they are great alternatives.

Image via Duni - Take away Boxes & Bowls

Image via Duni - Take away Boxes & Bowls

Let’s Unpack The Packaging Debate

What qualifies compostable?

Let’s start off by defining what compostable means and how it differs from biodegradable, two terminologies now used to describe food packaging.


In order for packaging products or materials to qualify as biodegradable, they must completely break down and decompose into natural elements within a short time after disposal – typically a year or less. ... Materials that are biodegradable include corrugated cardboard and even some plastics. 


Compostable means that a product is capable of disintegrating into natural elements in a compost environment, leaving no toxicity in the soil. This typically must occur in about 90 days. Some companies advertise their products as merely biodegradable.

Is biodegradable better than compostable?

Although compostable and biodegradable are often used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. Biodegradable means that a product can break down without oxygen and turn into carbon dioxide, water and biomass within a reasonable amount of time naturally. Compostable products require a specific process or setting to break down and while typically a faster process it is only under the right conditions.

What is compostable food packaging?

Types of Compostable Food Packaging. There are many different types of compostable packaging for food available. ... Compostable materials are made from materials such as sugarcane and corn starch and are non-toxic. These materials rot completely away and leave little in the way of minerals or other materials behind under the right compostable process.

If you are looking for an environmentally friendly way to package food, compostable food packaging could be just the thing.

Compostable food packaging is the ideal way to package a wide range of different types of food. Unlike traditional food packaging that gets disposed of through the main waste management system and can end up in landfills, compostable packaging can be placed in a compost system where it will completely biodegrade or rot. This has very real environmental benefits and is an ideal compromise for people who want the convenience of disposable food packaging but want to lead a more environmentally friendly life.

Companies Playing their Part

  1. Returnr:
    A environmental initiative that provides food services with reusable takeaway strategy. Now in conjunction with Deliveroo consumers can purchase takeaway in reusable containers, eat and enjoy and then drop the containers back off to the restaurant at a later date. To read more click here

  2. Helsinki Restaurant Nolla:
    Restaurant Nolla takes it a step further. With their Zero waste kitchen they put together an action plan, approached their suppliers and requested companies change the packaging of goods delivered to them in reusable packages. To read more click here

  3. Transhless Takeaway:

    A initiative that outlines all the food service outlets in Australia that have a BYO container scheme in place. To read more click here


Cover image: Compostable Food Packaging (Image via Takeaway Packaging)