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Compostable Food Boxes

written by: weborglodge•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 9/9/2010

Compostable food boxes address a growing ecological issue as consumption of fast food and convenience products grows. A 2003 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that children's consumption of fast food increased 300 percent from 1977 to 1996.

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    The Need for a Solution

    The problem with food packaging in general is that it contaminates the materials making them unsuitable for recycling, explains the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Food materials on packaging can ruin batches of recycled paper.

    While you may think that recycling food packaging is beneficial, it may have the opposite effect. Compostable food boxes provide a way to lessen the impact of food packaging when recycling is not an option. The waste generated from food packaging is significant.

    The EPA estimates that nearly 4 million tons of plastic packaging was generated in 2007. Of that amount, less than 14 percent was recycled, adding over 3 million tons to landfills.

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    Benefits of Compostable Packaging

    Using more earth-friendly packaging allows businesses to reduce their environmental impact. The environment benefits from a switch to materials which will not last indefinitely in landfills. The long-term benefit can be a reduction in landfill waste. Compostable materials offer an emerging business niche for the enterprising entrepreneur.

    Compostable packaging is non-toxic and is easily processed. Some products can be customized to control the lifetime of the product, improving its marketability. The difference in price for the business owner is minimal.

    From a branding perspective, use of compostable packaging sends a positive message to consumers. As a green company, this philosophy influences consumers choices and helps drive sales.

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    Sources of Compostable Packaging

    Several companies have seized the challenge of providing environmentally-safe packaging. Different sources serve as raw materials for compostable products. The Eco-Product Store's line of compostable products includes containers made from sugar cane and corn. The use of natural materials avoids the risk of using products which may contaminate water and soils as they degrade.

    Canadian-based New Biodegradable uses corn to create compostable packaging which is virtually identical to plastic. The company offers take-out containers in addition to biodegradable forks, plates, and cups. Use of these materials offers an ecologically sound solution for plastics which can take hundreds and perhaps thousands of years to degrade.

    Food Biz Supply offers a wide range of trays, food boxes, and other food containers. Some products use recycled materials, making them a wise environmental choice. Other products are made with a blend of bamboo, rice, sugar cane, and willow fibers, offering a tree-free solution to packaging.

    Compostable food boxes represent one way to reduce landfill waste when recycling is not possible. They benefit both the environment and the business with a solution that is ecological sound. The availability of compostable packaging is certain to grow as businesses and individuals alike seek ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

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    M. Pierre St-Onge et al. Changes in childhood food consumption patterns: a cause for concern in light of increasing body weights. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2003:78 (6):1068-1073.

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Municipal Solid Waste in the United States –

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Recovered Paper Quality –