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Food News


Chicago Considers a Ban on Foam Takeout Boxes for Restaurants

January 16, 2020 - from The Spoon:

"Wegmans Food Markets plans to pull single-use plastic bags from all of its 47 New York stores on Jan. 27."

"Chicago introduced an ordinance this week that would ban restaurants from using polystyrene (aka foam) to-go containers and also limit the amount of disposable plastics they use."

"The 'Plastic-Free Water” ordinance' calls for a total ban of polystyrene packaging that would go into effect on January 1, 2021. Restaurants would have to substitute with reusable dishes for dine-in orders and recyclable or compostable ones for takeout and delivery orders.

"The ordinance also calls for a limit — though not a total ban — on single-use plastics like to-go cutlery. Restaurants would give these items out if requested or have them available at self-service stations, rather than packaging them with each order by default. Additionally, customers would be able to bring their own reusable cups."

"Restaurants that do not have the space to wash dishes and can’t contract out that work (think food trucks or mall kiosks) would be able to request a full or partial waiver."

"Providing restaurants with a list of available alternatives to polystyrene is an important step in the industry, as one of the issues businesses face when making the switch to sustainable to-go packaging is even knowing what else is out there. Whether these alternatives will actually be realistically affordable, especially for smaller, independent restaurants, remains in question. "

Plastic To-Go Containers Are Bad, but Are the Alternatives Any Better?

January 14, 2020 - from Civil Eats:

"On January 1, Berkeley, California rang in the New Year by putting a new rule in place requiring all cafés and restaurants to start charging 25 cents for disposable cups. The cups, in addition to lids, utensils, straws, and clamshells, must also now be certified compostable. This summer, eateries that offer on-site dining will also be required to serve customers using reusable plates, cups, and cutlery."

"Berkeley’s ordinance—one of the strongest in the country—seeks to do away with single-use plastics. And it’s one of a slew of new laws that aim to do so. Towns, states, even entire countries, have been moving to ban everything from plastic checkout bags and plastic straws, to plastic food containers and take-away serviceware."

"Many municipalities are also requiring restaurants and coffee shops to switch to plant-based compostables for takeout meals. They’re joining several other cities, including San Francisco and Seattle, which pioneered such requirements years ago. Even in areas where they aren’t the law, so-called bio-plastics are a booming business, and some food and beverage companies and restaurants have voluntarily made the switch as part of their sustainability plans."

"While many have pinned their hopes on these alternatives, some researchers and recyclers caution that an over-reliance on compostable tableware and packaging may not be the solution it’s cracked up to be. In life cycle assessments, it turns out, compostables don’t necessarily outshine plastics when it comes to environmental benefits. And an increase in compostables in the waste stream could, in fact, bungle up the composting process, create more trash, and continue consumers’ addiction to single-use items, detracting from the most environmentally beneficial practices: reducing and reusing."

"The recycling quandary has led to an even more urgent search for solutions; thus the turn to bio-plastics. Compostable food serviceware—made from plants such as corn, sugarcane, and bamboo—is also sometimes called “biodegradable,” but that’s a misnomer. It doesn’t decompose in backyard compost bins and needs to be processed at industrial facilities. Currently, only a few hundred of the roughly 4,000 composting facilities in the U.S. have the ability to accept food scraps and a much smaller subset can accept bio-plastics." "a 2018 analysis by the Oregon DEQ showed that “compostability is a poor indicator for determining the environmental benefits and burdens of packaging and food serviceware items” and that compostables introduces a set of trade-offs. Instead of just looking at the final result—does it generate waste?—the study used a complete life-cycle analysis, which evaluates the raw materials used, the manufacturing process, the transportation system, and what happens to the waste."

"In the case of compostables, the Oregon DEQ reviewed 18 years of life-cycle assessments, including over 1,200 comparisons involving compostable packaging and over 360 comparisons for food serviceware. In most of these comparisons, the production and use of compostable materials (and composting them) was found to result in higher environmental impacts than that of either non-compostable materials, or compostable materials treated via recycling, landfilling, or incineration."

"While many people focus on the impacts of disposal, the environmental impacts of producing materials generally can be 10, 50, or 100 times higher than the impacts of disposal, depending on the source materials, packaging, and production process, Allaway said. He added that some compostable items are low-impact while others high impact, but the industry does not provide detailed information on the particulars so consumers can make a choice."

"And while food waste produces rich compost that restores soil fertility and helps store soil carbon, some compostable packaging doesn’t produce much compost at all. When it degrades in a composting facility, corn-based PLA—polyactic acid—just turns into carbon dioxide and water."

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