Covid-19 changed many things about the restaurant industry, but perhaps the biggest was the increase in ghost kitchen start-ups and the trend towards food delivery. The improvements in restaurant tech allowed many restaurants to operate virtually, improving their websites to take a greater influx of online orders and partnering with third-party delivery systems. This, in turn, led to an enormous increase in single-use plastic products, including boxes, cups, and lids.
Many restaurant owners and managers embrace the philosophy of sustainable food, but restaurant sustainability is more than just farm-to-table. It's also finding the right kind of take-out containers, ones that are compostable and won't take up extra space in landfills. We're looking at ways that restaurants can embrace advances in food tech that allow for greater sustainability, which is the preference for many diners, as well as socially responsible for the business owners.
The Demand For Sustainable Packaging
According to a survey by Asia Pulp & Paper, almost two-thirds of diners want the restaurant industry to feature sustainable packaging and compostable take-out containers, proving that customers are hungry for more than just delicious food. Many diners say that they would be willing to pay more for restaurants that use sustainable packaging, and this can help offset the cost of switching to a different type of container.
Reduce Single-Use Cutlery
Reducing single-use cutlery isn't just environmentally friendly. It's also a great way to boost the profit margins for restaurants. You may be able to save thousands of dollars annually by reducing the amount you spend on cutlery. Instead of including plastic utensils with your take-out orders, default to having them only on request, using a module on your website ad through third-party delivery sites for customers to indicate they need plasticware.
Finding the Best Compostable Take-Out Containers
Not all eco-friendly carryout containers are the same. There are a couple of different kinds of containers, and we'll look at the differences between them.
Recyclable containers are made from materials that can be repurposed into new products or reclaimed into other items. plastic is the most common material for these, but not all plastic is recyclable. Plastic number 6, for example, isn't made for recycling and will therefore end up in landfills. Most plastic containers will list what kind they are using a number inside the three arrows recycle symbol. When you choose recyclable plastic containers, your customers are more likely to recycle them.
A compostable container isn't necessarily one that can be recycled or repurposed, but rather will break down into organic materials over time. According to the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), most compostable materials should be able to break down within an 80 day period.
However, there's a difference between compostable products and commercially compostable ones. Food packaging that's labeled as commercially compostable can only be broken down in commercial composting facilities. This means that if your customers order food served in these containers, they cannot simply compost them in their own back yard nor recycle them. So, if your community doesn't have a commercial composting facility, then your customers won't be able to compost the containers, and they'll just end up in landfills.
Using Sustainable Materials For Food Service
Choosing compostable food containers includes your napkins, straws, and cutlery, too. Bamboo and sugarcane are two sustainable materials, aren't endangered, and can easily be composted in your customer's backyard. Before you decide on compostable containers, make sure that you do your research for your ghost kitchen, and only purchase items that customers can compost themselves, unless you know that the commercial composting facility in your area is used often by residents.
Other alternatives can including shifting to aluminum pans, which can easily be rinsed out and recycled. Another option is to have reusable totes for people to carry out meals, or having washable containers that customers return to the restaurant when they're done.