Tag Archives: biodegradable

Why Biodegradable Take-out Boxes and Cups Are the Way to Go

In a perfect world, we could all bring reusable food containers and coffee mugs every time we visited a restaurant or cafe. However, when we’re ordering takeout, we forget to bring our own containers with us, or if they’re just inconvenient to carry on the go, we often need to use disposable boxes and cups.

With biodegradable take-out containers cheaper than ever, now is a great time for restaurants and cafes to do away with Styrofoam and paper and to adopt greener alternatives. While these alternatives do cost more than the traditional Styrofoam and paper cups and containers, their additional cost is relatively marginal over the course of a business year.

Whereas Styrofoam cups cost $25 per 1000, biodegradable cups can cost as little as $100 for 1000. This means that if your business uses 1000 disposable cups a year, the additional cost would be only $75 per year, which is the amount of money you might make in a single business day. With take-out containers, the additional costs for biodegradables can be less than $140 a year, if your business goes through 1000 of them in that time span.

That’s all it would cost to help curb the use and disposal of Styrofoam, a product that takes a minimum of 20 generations (500 years) to biodegrade, was made using a nonrenewable resource (petroleum), and could potentially be ingested by animals when it inevitably breaks into small pieces.

Paper cups, in many cases, have even fewer redeemable qualities than Styrofoam, considering that they do not insulate heat nearly as well, take much more energy to produce, and cost well more than Styrofoam, at about $80 per 1000 units—which is only about $20 less than some biodegradable alternatives.

When the time it takes for many paper cups to decompose (over 20 years, if the cup is coated with wax) is factored in, paper looks even less attractive than Styrofoam from both an economic and environmental standpoint.

Thus, while large chain restaurants might save a substantial amount of money using traditional Styrofoam, paper, and plastic, small businesses can substantially reduce their environmental footprint with only a minor additional investment in biodegradable take-out boxes and cups.

Here are some resources that explain the economics and environmental impact of Styrofoam, paper, and plastic disposable containers:

And the following links provide a good sampling and explanation of some biodegradable alternatives:

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Filed under Business, recycle, Reduce, Resources, Restaurants

Greening your one-time-use food service supplies

There are three areas to think about when greening your food service operation. Your building envelope and energy consumption, waste management strategies and the food itself. In this article we focus on how to reduce the environmental impact of the waste you generate through your business.

Of course, the greenest option is to serve food and beverages on reusable plates, in glasses or mugs and offer cloth napkins, which also makes for a very pleasant and memorable dining experience for your customers. However, if that is not possible, another strategy is to use compostable and/or biodegradable dinnerware, silverware, take-out containers and recycled paper napkins. These products are made from plant-based and other renewable materials rather than petroleum products and break down more quickly than traditional plastic and styrofoam options. The benefits are great: less dependence on non-renewable and foreign oil, less waste in landfills, less toxins leaking into our food and bodies, and creation of useful compost material. ( Polystyrene— aka Styrofoam— is one of the worst offenders. The GAP SBN encourages members to discontinue their use of styrofoam whenever possible. Read more about the environmental and health impacts here. )

Of course, there are cons to think about when making the switch to biodegradables and compostables. The cost for these containers is sometimes double that of conventional options, which can be a hindrance for even the most well-intentioned business owner. However, member businesses of the SBN who use these products say they help build relationships with customers who inquire about the practice and appreciate the efforts of the business. Trail users expecting to support a green business may be disappointed to receive their otherwise delicious meal on a plastic or styrofoam plate. First impressions are important, and serving food in a more sustainable container is a great, visible way to show your commitment to sustainability. This can encourage repeat business and word of mouth endorsements, which are very important along the Great Allegheny Passage.

Think about partnering with other SBN members when placing orders to reduce overall costs! For take-out containers, some businesses charge a minimal fee (as little as 5 cents) for customers using the items. Most won’t mind once you explain the reasoning, plus it will make them consider the true cost of their decision as well. Still other businesses offer a small discount for customers who bring their own reusable containers for their leftovers. Post any other creative solutions in the comments section!

Below is a brief list of resources on eco-friendly food service containers. Be sure to do your own research too to find what will work best for you!

An quick read from USA Today about compostable dinnerware: trends, pros and cons.

foldpak.com offers the necessities for greening your single-use food-service items.

greenrestaurants.org is a good starting place for finding green products used in the food-service industry.

dirtworks.net, based in VT, offers a full range of products to order (and their specs), as well as some interesting facts about composting, waste and recycling.


Filed under B&Bs, Business, how-to, Reduce, Resources, Restaurants