By Regi Publico
The rise of online deliveries during the pandemic further emphasized the problem of plastic packaging—particularly in the Styrofoam department. Because Styrofoam is cheaper and made of lightweight, heat-resistant material, most businesses still prefer to use it to pack their products, especially for take-out and deliveries. It has become an accessible choice for restaurants and businesses alike.
However, the implications of single-use plastics to the environment outweigh their convenience. There are rising ecological concerns wherein Styrofoam blocks waterways and occupies landfills that are not to look away. Last 2020 alone, more than a hundred million tons of waste ended up in US landfills, with 30% of them as EPS—which includes Styrofoam.
Although many sustainable practices include repurposing and reusing waste, it might be challenging to apply these practices to Styrofoam and other EPS. It is because recycling Styrofoam is less practical and costly, for there is limited recycling equipment available to accommodate it.
There is nothing much you can do about it on a micro-scale level, aside from veering away from using single-use containers. However, businesses and restaurant owners have key roles to play in incorporating sustainability management into their packaging choices.
With more eco-friendly choices available in the market nowadays, you can assess which packaging works best for your budget and business. So, here is a list of sustainable Styrofoam alternatives in packaging to help you find the right one for your product model!
Sustainable Alternatives in Packaging Food and Parcels
Here is a quick trivia: bamboo is not a tree—it is grass! Now, you know you’re not contributing to massive deforestation when you choose packages made out of it.
Bamboo is a famous material, often used to craft a wide range of products—especially in the food industry. It is a better alternative for utensils, cups, and straws for take-out or delivery.
It also gives off a rustic and traditional feel when used. Although it is a bit more expensive in comparison to others, this is one of the most suitable choices for an eco-friendly solution. Not to mention, the aesthetic it brings to your brand that can translate into repeat customers shortly!
Paper is one of the universal solutions when it comes to greener alternatives. It is biodegradable and easy to dispose of. However, you have to be careful in choosing the right manufacturer of paper packaging and ensure that it is not a byproduct of illegal logging and harmful forest activities.
Paper-based packaging is one of the most used alternatives nowadays in the food industry. But one of its downsides in handling to-go food is its tendency to become soggy. Don’t worry, though. There are current developments in paper packaging that allows it to handle food and their temperatures better! Among these are PLA lined paper and bioactive paper coatings, which can also be an alternative.
When fresh sugarcane juice is extracted from the crushed sugarcane, the discarded material is called bagasse. It can also be from processed sorghum or wheat. The leftover material is fibrous, and when processed with other recyclable paper materials, it can be molded into food plates and containers.
Bagasse is an effective and sustainable choice because of several reasons. First, instead of going into a landfill, several of its materials are easily compostable after use—an additional factor that can help grow more trees and sugarcanes.
Next, it does not involve a complicated process or equipment. Therefore, producing it uses less energy than making new Styrofoam products. Moreover, Bagasse is also built with more structure, making it a sturdier choice among other paper alternatives.
The material used to create mushroom-based packaging is the root or the thread-like part of the mushrooms, known as mycelium. It is fused with agricultural byproducts to be molded as boxes or fillings, and become a sustainable choice for packaging. Mushroom-based packaging is biodegradable and will decompose in just a few weeks, so it is also a great choice for those who have a garden at home.
Another alternative for a loose filling is corrugated cardboard. Instead of having weird-shaped Styrofoam pieces and fillers in the packaging—which ultimately end up in the trash—cardboard can effectively support the package from shaking, absorbing shock, and protecting fragile or delicate parcels.
There is also business nowadays that is from recycled or repurposed cardboard. Paper-based products are often recyclable up to seven times. Then, to ensure the safety and the effectiveness of protection to packages,
The Takeaway: Say bye to Styrofoam, say hi to new alternatives!
It can be hard to change something that you got used to, especially if it costs less and provides more convenience—like Styrofoam. But recent news about climate change and its exponential impact on the world has highlighted the need to rethink our practices. Good thing that many sustainable alternatives can ease these impacts, in simple yet innovative ways.