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Why are you still using styrofoam packaging for your restaurant?

October 15, 2018

Why are you still using styrofoam packaging for your restaurant?

It's keeping your takeout food warm, it's the lid on your latte, it's in plastic cutlery. It’s piling up in landfills at a record rate, damaging our oceans, lakes, and rivers, and impacting the entire ecological system of the planet. So, what’s this nasty packaging material?

Styrofoam.

Commonly known by its brand name Styrofoam, but also referred to as polystyrene, ( or EPS), styrofoam takes a hefty toll on the environment. The food service industry is a major user of styrofoam because the containers, cups, and trays made with it are very low cost. But that low cost comes with a major expense to our environment and our health.

More than 14 million tonnes of polystyrene are produced every year around the world. Now consider that given its lightweight (Styrofoam is 95 percent air) -- the volume it represents is massive!

•In America, an estimated 25 billion styrofoam cups are thrown away every year. This averages to about 82 cups per person, per annum. Out of the million tons of polystyrene that is produced in the US each year, 2.3 million tons end up in our landfills, with much of the remainder finding its way into waterways. And, when it lands there, it stays there as it can take as little is 500 whopping years for styrofoam packaging to break down. I’ll repeat that again - FIVE HUNDRED YEARS. And, that's that is a conservative estimate.

EPS also contains a chemical called styrene. Styrene has been linked to cancer, vision and hearing loss, nervous system effects, and impaired memory and concentration. 

So, what’s the message here? Styrofoam is very, very bad. 

Thankfully, many cities across the US are enforcing change in the usage of styrofoam, instilling bans which are being rolled out as we speak. Among them, the main cities are:

  • New York City (and several other cities in New York)
  • Takoma Park, MD
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Washington DC
  • Miami Beach, FL
  • Freeport, Maine
  • Portland, Maine
  • Nantucket (City & County), Massachusetts
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Portland, Oregon (and several other Oregon cities)
  • Los Angeles County and San Francisco, California (and many other cities and counties in CA)

Now, restaurants, food trucks, caterers and event planners are becoming more educated when it comes to the impact of using styrofoam as well. In the last several years we have witnessed a dramatic and positive shift to replacing styrofoam packaging with more eco-friendly, biodegradable options for serving and packaging food. 

One of the most exciting, innovative alternatives to styrofoam packaging for restaurants is a packaging material called Bagasse.Bagasse is the byproduct that is left behind from sugar cane production. Once all the juice is extracted, the left-over fibers (think of it as a thick pulp)  are used to make many products for food service packaging. Sugarcane pulp is naturally strong, so it makes for sturdy containers and tableware, so everything from burger containers, to bowls, plates, takeout boxes and more can be created with bagasse.

Additional benefits of bagasse:

  • It’s low cost and low-energy to produce
  • It’s an affordable alternative that is suitable for hot and cold food
  • It’s very stable and sturdy
  • It has an excellent thermal property: suitable for temperatures from -25°C to 220°C;
  • It’s water repellent and grease-proof: also suitable for hot and very oily/greasy dishes
  • And - it’s completely biodegradable & compostable

Now, when we compare how long it takes for styrofoam to decompose (500 YEARS) vs. Bagasse at an astonishing rate of 30-90 DAYS, switching to bagasse containers is just a no-brainer!

So, if your restaurant business is still using styrofoam packaging it’s time to make the change to a superior, greener styrofoam alternative - bagasse. Your customersand the planet will thank you for it! 

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