Are Compostable To-Go Containers Up to the Job?

Aug 18, 2017 8:30:00 AM

Old school food service packaging is under attack with municipal, state and local governments proposing bans on traditional foam food packaging products.

Proposals to ban polystyrene containers used in food service venues in East Coast cities and the existing laws in California are only the beginning salvos in the battle to reduce the huge amount of plastic waste flooding into landfills.

compostable fiber containers

It is also an opportunity for canny food service operators to get ahead of the problem with a switch to compostable green products. Switching to the clearly labeled biodegradable cups, containers and other food service packaging provides real benefits to food service operators, the public and the environment.

Cost Benefits

Rising costs and environmental damage associated with petroleum based plastics is a serious issue facing business and government. Polystyrene and other petroleum-based packaging prices are linked to a dwindling oil supply.

However, compostable products use are increasingly cost competitive and derived from completely natural, sustainable plant-based materials. As time goes by, compostable food service containers and supplies will likely become the less expensive option.

“Real” Compostable Green Products

There are many companies offering “green” products for use in food service and not all of them deliver on the promise. Containers, bags and other food service supplies labeled as being “biodegradable” may not be safe for use because everything, even steel, degrades if given enough time.

Watch out for product descriptions that use terms such as Eco-Friendly or biologically based to sell products. Compostable products, including the clamshells, straws and bags you use must meet strict standards regulated by the American Society of Testing and Materials.

bpi certification process


Look for the BPI certified logo. This means that the products will compost, break down into natural components in a composting environment, in as little as 90 days. They basically turn into rich soil without any toxic ingredients left behind. Buying BPI-certified compostable products costs about the same as the products you may be using already with the benefit of being safe for the environment and avoiding the hassle due to changes in local and state laws.  

Additional Benefits

Switching to compostable products in your food service operation is a great way to help turn a dirty problem into profit. Because the clamshells, straw, bags and other packaging materials are compostable you can make them part of your organic garbage disposal along with food scraps and paper.

The net result is lower waste disposal costs and good public relations. Your customers will approve of your efforts to protect the environment and you'll enjoy knowing that the waste you dispose of today is generating fertile soil to produce the foods your guests eat in the future.

Ken Jacobus

Written by Ken Jacobus

Ken Jacobus is CEO and founder of Good Start Packaging. He works with restaurants and other organizations around the U.S. to help them find the best sustainable alternatives to traditional plastic take out food containers. When not busy trying to eliminate landfills and plastic, he hikes, bikes, skis, reads, and plays with his family around his home in southern New Hampshire.

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