I’m often asked by foodservice operators and consumers: What sustainable single-use foodservice products should I use to serve food and beverages? Which products are the greenest?
The short answer is that there isn’t an easy, one-size-fits-all solution, and green is just a color. “Sustainable” and “green” mean different things to different people. So before you convert to more sustainable packaging, you should first spend some time defining your sustainability goal. It could be less waste, lower carbon footprint, better recyclability, encouraging composting (if you happen to have a local composter that takes foodservice packaging), exclusive use of products made with renewable materials, or responding to customer concerns.
A number of more sustainable options are available today with products made from recyclable, renewable and/or compostable materials that can help you achieve your sustainability goals. What you need to remember is that every choice -- whether paper, traditional plastic, bio-plastic or other renewable materials -- has a trade off for the environment and no choice offers a perfect solution. The most sustainable solution for one foodservice operator may not be the best for another.
The simple fact is that more sustainable packaging requires us to broaden our horizons and work collaboratively with partners we may have once dismissed. Progress won’t always come easily. It requires the entire supply chain (raw material suppliers, convertors, distributors, operators, waste haulers, recyclers, composters) and outside stakeholders (government, non-governmental organizations and consumers) working together to put the right products, processes and infrastructure in place to create change that has a positive environmental impact.
I hope this is a space where we can discuss options for foodservice packaging, offer insight into what the packaging industry is doing to help create more sustainable options and the infrastructures necessary to support it, and encourage an open dialogue on how we can all do better. We’ll talk recyclability and compostability, the myths, the facts, and what you need to know about legislation that could impact your packaging choices. We’ll share challenges, inspirational stories and tips to get you started. I look forward to working and talking with you to improve our businesses and reduce our collective impact on the environment.
Kim Frankovich is VP of sustainability at Solo Cup Company, and is responsible for addressing sustainability in Solos operations, products and partnerships.