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Throwing it all away

Paper and plastic ware can be a very important part of your operation, in terms of both price point and customer convenience. Here are some tips to help in your buying.

Paper and plastic ware are critical for delivering meals and snacks at quickservice, fast-casual and full-service restaurants that offer drive-through, carryout, pickup or delivery service. The disposables category includes plastic utensils; paper or plastic plates and bowls; plastic, paper and polystyrene foam cups; and the covers for all these containers. Then there are paper napkins and placemats, paper and plastic bags and specialty clamshell and two-piece containers to hold and transport carryout and leftovers. Larger versions are used for delivery and mobile catering.

While proper disposal and recycling are valid concerns, the fact is that disposables are necessary to meet the needs of a mobile and time-starved population.

On the positive side, disposables:

  • Keep foods safe (hot or cold) and palatable during transport
  • Reduce the use of water and cleaning chemicals
  • Help small restaurants deliver inexpensive food and beverage options without investing in dishware and dish machines
  • Provide foodservice where glass and ceramic isn’t practical or safe
  • Serve as inexpensive message boards for restaurants

It’s the material that matters

Are wood-based paper products and plastics made from petroleum or natural gas byproducts more eco-friendly? Not necessarily. The real question is, “Are there materials available to produce disposables that are less damaging, less energy-dependent and more earth-friendly than existing materials?” 

The answer is yes. Solo has introduced a Single Poly Paper Hot Cup that contains 10 percent post-consumer fiber. Delivering the same performance as its standard hot cup, this is the first post-consumer fiber cup to be approved by the FDA. Not to be outdone, Dixie has introduced EcoSmart triple-wall insulated paper cups that contain a minimum of 12 percent post-consumer recycled material.

Want to go greener? Bagasse is a byproduct of the sugar refining process. This pulp is now being converted into biodegradable, compostable disposable products, including plates, bowls and insulated food containers. For the scoop on bagasse-based disposables, go to www.sinlessbuying.com.

Not your father’s plastic

Bioplastics are entering the disposables supply chain in a big way. Made from a combination of starches (such as corn, wheat, potato and tapioca), along with cellulose, soy protein and lactic acid, this biodegradable and compostable plastic is now used in cups, straws, utensils and plates. When composted, disposables break down into environmentally safe carbon dioxide, water and a residual biomass.

RuEarthware Biodegradables makes its plastic cutlery and plates from corn starch, which is formulated for composting and will break down in as little as 45 days. GenPac offers its Harvest Collection of disposables made from bioplastics. For disposable plates with a little more backbone, ReNewable Products adds limestone to the potato and corn starch base, creating rigid, microwavable, grease resistant, premium strength dinnerware.

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