Surprisingly low contamination in Boston foodservice packaging

Surprisingly low contamination in Boston foodservice packaging

By Bobby Elliott, Plastics Recycling Update

Dec. 13, 2013

A recent study on food residue in packaging aims to bust the myth that food service packaging is too contaminated to be added to recycling streams.

The Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) released preliminary findings from a food residue study carried out in Boston. With the help of DSM Environmental Services, roughly 2,000 pounds of randomly selected curbside recyclables were collected and subjected to a "visual ranking system."

According to FPI's study overview, "there was no appreciable difference in contamination rates" between foodservice packaging and non-foodservice packaging, except when it came to foodservice corrugated containers, which exhibited slightly higher contamination levels. The study does note, however, that more research needs to be done in the field.

Another notable finding: Bostonians apparently do an impeccable job cleaning recyclables. "All of the recyclables were exceptionally clean … when compared to other recycling sorts," the study states, and concludes that the findings, therefore, "may not be representative of recycling set outs in other cities." In addition, the relatively small sample size – and the small percentage of foodservice packaging recyclables found – suggests that testing at higher levels might provide a clearer picture of the "real or imagined barrier" stopping many MRFs from accepting foodservice packaging.

Framing the study as "a first look at the issue," FPI adds that its analysis "provides at least a promising potential."

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