Sweetgreen is rolling out compostable bowls to fight food waste

Many restaurants joining the sustainable bandwagon often turn to compostable fiber packaging to avoid sending packaging waste to landfills. However, an investigation last year in The Counter (formerly New Food Economy), which sent compostable packaging to a lab for testing highlighted that PFAS were commonly used in them. 

PFA compounds have been linked to health problems including cancer and thyroid disease. If the chemicals found in PFAs end up in landfills they could potentially end up in soil, water and in food grown with compost. 

Footprint – a startup fighting this issue with sustainable packaging – has been working on a design to avoid these problems. Companies using compostable fibers to make packaging use these chemicals to prevent the paper-like surface from getting soggy, it’s a common practice but Footprint think they´ve come up with a solution . They won’t reveal the exact process they use but it starts with using a giant blender to mix fibers, and later this year will start using post-consumer recycled paper. This bath of fibers is then shaped into the mold of a bowl and treated with heat, after which it is coated with a bio-based outer layer. Footprint is on a mission to promote sustainable packaging and is working with large food companies to change their containers for the good of the environment and consumers health. 

The main issue is that plastic is very cheap and many companies struggle to stop using it. However, many brands are ready to take the plunge: restaurant chain Sweetgreen has now partnered with Footprint to offer PFSA-free packaging to its consumers and will start using recycled paper for its bowls. 

 “That material has already been used to ship something from Amazon, or whatever, to your home, and now we’re repurposing that paper into a Sweetgreen bowl,” 

After some research and lab tests, the restaurant launched its first ever bowl in San Francisco and after big success now plans to launch it across the USA.

Read more on Sweetgreens journey to sustainable packaging @FastCompany

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