The Toll of Takeout: To-Go Containers

Plastic containers are convenient for deli takeout, but they’re not healthy for the environment.


Photo courtesy Wild Oats

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The bad news

In 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates the United States generated 11 million tons of plastics as containers and packaging. The total amount of plastics in the municipal solid waste supply—25.4 million tons—represents 11.1 percent of total waste.

The good news

Wild Oats Markets, a nationwide natural foods store chain, now packages cold deli items in 100 percent biodegradable containers made from cornstarch. Manufacturing the clear, all-natural, NatureWorks PLA containers uses up to 50 percent fewer fossil fuels than petroleum-based plastics. The containers degrade in industrial composters—but not in home compost systems—so Wild Oats currently collects used containers in their Oregon, Washington and Colorado stores for composting. The company expects to expand its compost program to 60 percent of its markets by the end of 2004.

More good news

You can buy compostable utensils, dishware and bags made of cornstarch and sugarcane reed pulp: