Sustainable Packaging: How to Maintain Zero Waste With Restaurant Deliveries

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We live in a world with an abundance of foods. Because of this, both consumers and restaurants produce more food waste than they need. In China, 5% of the entire country’s food is thrown away. In South-Korea it’s an even higher 8%, according to the Food Sustainability Index.
In China, this translates to about 44kgs of food per person, per year. While this is low in comparison to some European countries, it could be lower. In this article, we will discuss how sustainable packaging options can help us lower food waste in and around Asia.

What is Sustainable Food Packaging?

There are various sources of eco-friendly food packaging for the food industry, which we will narrow down to three main categories: biodegradable packaging, recyclable packaging, and reusable packaging.

Biodegradable Packaging

This packaging is made for single use only and usually has a degradation span of between a few days and a few months. Most biodegradable containers consist of natural materials, like plants, plant-waste, and naturally occurring polymer bonds, hence the name. According to research, this packaging can be used to feed animals, giving the packaging a second purpose.

Recyclable Packaging

Within recyclable packaging, various materials can be recycled. Some of them are natural, while others are man-made. While you can use the packaging only once, you can send it to a recycling centre which then creates a new product from it.

Reusable Packaging

Reusable packaging is an environmentally friendly alternative to disposable items. Most reusable products are made from durable resources, like bamboo, glass, aluminium, wood, or recycled plastic. It allows people to reuse the product for years, which makes it especially eco-conscious as it takes the place of single-use disposable goods.

What Can Sustainable Packaging Do to Reduce Waste?

Most restaurants use plastic containers, bags, and cups to store food when giving out meals or doggy bags. Not only is this harmful to the environment, but it can also release small plastic particles, called PCB’s into the food of your customers, increasing the chances of illness. Besides, many places choose to throw away food when a customer has finished eating, rather than having them take it home. This contributes to the food wasted in your country. Using sustainable packaging helps to fight food waste and does not contribute to the health issues caused by plastic. Sustainable and natural packaging functions the same as plastic packaging when it comes to storing food. However, as it does not contain plastics, it does not cause harm to the human body or the environment.

Bamboo

Bamboo is a widely available plant and has been crowned the “fastest-growing plant in the world” with a growth speed of 40mm per hour. The thick fibres within the stem are sturdy and ideal for creating sustainable packaging or clothing options.

A 2015 study researched the recyclability and biodegradability of bamboo fabric in combination with BF-PLA, a banana fibre-based renewable source of plastic. The research concluded that due to the bamboo, the packaging was strong enough to be reused and recycled. It also helped to increase the time it took for it to degrade, making it an ideal packaging method for the food industry. However, bamboo is one of the more expensive packaging solutions, making it a significant investment for restaurants.

Banana Leaves

In 2010, an 11-year-old boy found a way to preserve banana leaves for over a year. He went on to do further research and founded Banana Leaf Technology. This method is an all-natural way to preserve banana leaves and use them for packaging materials, like boxes, plates, cups, and cones. Thanks to the treatment, the leaves are antibacterial, which make them suitable to use in the food industry. Banana-leaf packaging also requires no deforestation or habitat loss for animals, as most leaves naturally fall every year. As this natural resource keeps production costs low, almost all countries with a banana-growing environment can invest in using this product to store food and drinks.

Paper/Cardboard

Research shows that one of the most abundant resources to produce sustainable packaging is paper. Paper can be made from many materials including wood, natural fibres (think bamboo), manure, or recycled paper. All these materials leave little to no impact on the environment provided that you use scrap wood rather than cutting down trees. Depending on the thickness and lining of the product, a paper packaging solution is suitable to transport all kinds of food-types, even soups. Like bamboo, prices often vary depending on the company you order it from. Due to the abundance of paper and cardboard, this is an affordable option for many food-based establishments.

Bioplastics Packaging

Now, when we say plastics, we don’t mean the fossil fuel-based plastics that are part of the pollution problem. On the contrary! Recent technology allows us to create plastic from natural materials, like wood, sugar, corn, and many more sources. These plastics can be called bioplastics, or just regular plastics. A common form of a bioplastic is PLA, which stands for polylactic acid. While it sounds very artificial, it’s actually a substance derived from corn starch. A big perk of bioplastics is that food packaging functions precisely the same as regular plastic packaging. However, by using bioplastics, you don’t excrete any microplastics into the environment or your customers’ bodies. Since bioplastics are entirely new and inventive, the price varies depending on quality, location, and producer.

Conclusion

As you may have noticed, there are plenty of sustainable packaging options on the market. Most of them work just as well as regular, non-sustainable packaging too. So, when you are looking for a viable alternative to your companies’ current containers, just look for the one that appeals the most to you. Some sustainable options are more expensive than others, which may be a factor in your decision-making process.

Just remember that sustainable packaging pays off in the long term, as it helps the environment and the human body. Besides, as more people are shopping consciously, you may just attract a few new eco-conscious customers to your establishment.

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