Foodservice Seeks Eco-friendly Alternatives to Plastic

Eliminating plastic has positive social and environmental impact, but good, non-plastic forks and spoons are hard to find.
July 23, 2018

SEATTLE – Reducing the use of single-use plastics may be good the environment, but finding affordable compostable or reusable alternatives can be a challenge, according to Supermarket News.

Because Seattle has banned the use of plastic straws and foodservice utensils, PCC Community Markets transitioned to compostable straws, utensils and packaging back in 2015. Recently, the 12-store chain pledged to eliminate all plastic from its delis by 2022, a move customers applaud.

“As a community-owned food market, we take our member and shopper feedback to heart,” said Darrell Vannoy, VP of merchandising and procurement at PCC. “One of the top requests from our shoppers is to use less plastic. We answered that call initially in 2007 when we eliminated plastic shopping bags from our stores, and we were thrilled to be able to do it again in 2015 when we moved to compostable items. Our newest goal is a continuation of our commitment and legacy in this area.”

However, finding straws and utensils that are compostable and can withstand high temperatures without breaking down is not easy. Plus, paper straws and compostable fiber cutlery cost three to four times the price of their plastic counterparts.

While PCC has adopted compostable utensils, the chain is still searching for the right packaging to replace plastic deli containers. It must be compostable and approved and accepted by the grocer’s main composting partner. It also must be functional without degrading, be affordable and be aesthetically pleasing.  

“While what’s inside the container is most important, we do know the packaging needs to look good for consumers to want to bring it home,” he said.

To coincide with Earth Day in April, convenience retailer Rutter’s introduced new dual indoor recycling-trash containers for customers inside the store to have more options to recycle. This year, Rutter’s is completing an overhaul of all to-go food packaging and moving away from Styrofoam to premium green packaging that can be easily recycled.