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What is the Next Generation of Takeaway Packaging?

  New York State will ban the use of disposable polystyrene foam food packaging from January 1, 2022. Many problems caused by polystyrene foam food packaging have once again become the focus of the industry. First, polystyrene foam takes an extremely long time to degrade, accounting for 10%-40% of all garbage found, and it also releases about 50 different chemical by-products into the air, water and the local natural environment.

  According to the New York Department of Environmental Protection, this new regulation applies to restaurants, catering companies, gourmet food trucks, gourmet shops, grocery stores, cafeterias, coffee shops, delicatessen stores, schools, etc. However, there are several exceptions to this ban in New York State: including the sale of raw meat and seafood cooked by customers, non-profit organizations and religious sites that provide food for disadvantaged groups have been granted certain exemptions, and they can continue to use styrofoam food packaging boxes.

  At present, the US federal government has not issued a ban on foam packaging, and all bans are implemented at the local level. In addition to New York, 11 other cities in the United States have completely banned the use of foam packaging for food or beverages, including San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. Outside the United States, from January 1, 2020, the French "Energy Transition to Promote Green Growth Act" officially implemented the ban on plastics, and France became the first country in the world to ban the use of disposable plastic tableware. At present, "limiting plastics" has become a global consensus, and many countries and regions have launched actions to limit and ban plastics. At the beginning of this year, China's National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment also issued the "Opinions on Further Strengthening the Control of Plastic Pollution."

  Disposable foam plastic food packaging is used in large quantities and has a low recycling rate, which has caused serious pollution to the soil environment and the marine environment. Of the 9 billion tons of plastic products produced in the world, only 9% are recycled and about 12% are incinerated. The remaining 79% will eventually accumulate in landfills or flow into the natural environment. Plastic waste in landfills or discarded into the environment may flow into the ocean through rivers and sewers or be blown into the ocean by the wind. Among the garbage floating on the sea, 85% of them are plastic garbage. The degradation time of plastic waste is very long, even reaching 400-500 years.

  Microplastic particles have been found in the digestive tract of 233 species of marine organisms worldwide (including 100% sea turtle species, 36% seal species, 59% whale species, 59% seabird species, as well as 92 species of marine fish and 6 species of invertebrates). exist. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), by 2050, 99% of birds are expected to eat plastic. The plastic that enters the body of marine organisms such as fish will also travel through the food chain and finally reach the human table.

  So without foam, what is the next generation of takeaway food packaging? Companies that produce and develop alternatives to traditional food packaging focus on the use of sustainable and biodegradable materials and hardly release any harmful chemicals during processing.

  In recent years, one of the most popular foam substitutes is the use of plant fibers to make food packaging boxes, which can be used as compost after use. Many different plant fibers can be used for this application, including sugar cane, corn, potatoes, and bamboo. Packaging boxes made of paper, especially recycled paper, are another common choice. Although these materials are compostable, some of the packaging contains "permanent chemicals" that will never decompose. A Hong Kong startup called Ecoinno uses sugar cane and bamboo to make take-out food packaging boxes that do not contain any special chemicals or plastics. Last year, the company received $6 million in A1 round of financing from two Alibaba investment funds.

  Ecoinno takeaway food packaging box made from sugar cane and bamboo

  Last summer, delivery service provider Delivery Hero launched a sustainable packaging program for its restaurants to reduce disposable and toxic packaging waste. Fast food chains like Burger King and Taco Bell have begun experimenting with various alternatives to their original disposable packaging, such as reusable, recyclable and compostable packaging.

  Recently, a London start-up company called Notpla focused on the development of "disappearable" food packaging boxes made of seaweed materials, and completed 11.7 million euros (approximately US$13.1 million) in financing. Notpla's packaging box is completely degraded within 4-6 weeks without any special treatment. Although NotPla's packaging material is intended to directly replace plastic, rather than foam, it still has the potential to be used in restaurants and the food industry.

  Although people are gradually aware of the negative impact of foam on the environment, how many cities or towns around us have actually implemented the ban on foam food packaging, and how many people really refuse to use this kind of food packaging? It is hoped that with the rise of more foam plastic packaging alternatives, we will see more places adopt legislation prohibiting disposable packaging and plastics, and consumers can start from daily food and reduce the need for foam plastic food. Reliance on packaging supports the use of sustainable packaging.