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Laura McNamara

June 22, 2023

The Increased Demand for Disposable Packaging & Its Impact on the Food Service Industry

How takeout is taking over landfills

Over the past few years, the landscape of the food service industry has drastically changed. Ordering for delivery or pickup used to be a luxury reserved for movie nights or pizza parties, but it has now become the norm as more and more restaurants have adapted to the increased demand for takeout. We have more options than ever before for ordering food directly to our door- from apps like DoorDash or GrubHub to meal prep services like HelloFresh.

As Covid lockdowns began in March 2020, these apps skyrocketed as millions of customers signed up and restaurants adapted to stay in business. Years later, the popularity of food delivery is still at an all time high. The National Restaurant Association's "2023 State of the Industry" report finds that delivery is here to stay- with 8 in 10 operators continuing to offer delivery as an option for their customers.

The unifying factor amongst all these delivery services is their need for disposable packaging. The unprecedented volume of food deliveries we see today has come with an unprecedented amount of waste being generated from the food service industry. Because of this, the industry is faced with a new set of responsibilities as research continues to uncover how different disposable materials impact the environment.    

The United States anually produces millions of tons of solid waste, with an estimated 30% coming from packaging materials as of 2022. Only a fraction of this is recyclable, with a vast majority ending up in landfills and contributing to climate pollution.

The convenience of food delivery is (literally) outweighed by the amount of waste it produces. How can we mitigate this issue? By making the switch to sustainable packaging materials. Compostable materials like Plant-Based Molded Fiber and Bio-Plastics like PLA are at the cutting edge of eco-friendly options for food packaging, and are becoming increasingly popular choices for restaurants across the country.

This Element accommodates your unique needs for disposable packaging. All of our plastic products are available in a range of bio-plastics to choose from. Our paper products also have multiple lining options, including PLA plastic and aqueous coatings.

How Businesses are Impacted

In response to the increased use of disposable packaging in the food service industry, government officials are stepping in to regulate the production of certain materials that are harmful to the environment. Legislation like California's SB 54 bill are becoming more common, with this particular bill requiring producers to lower their use of single-use plastics by at least 25% over the next 9 years.

As these regulatory bills are passed, it is important for businesses to stay up to date on their local legislation when buying disposable packaging. If you're looking to do your part and make the switch to more sustainable materials, This Element can help your eco-friendly endeavors! 

Contact us at with any questions.

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