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The skinny on foodservice packaging

June 18, 2015

Two of the most common questions foodservice operators ask me are, “Where can I find new packaging?” and “What’s the latest news on packaging legislation?”

The first question is easy to answer. There are several ways to find the products you need. First, ask your distributor for help. He or she can give you the latest information on what would work best for your needs. Second, ask other restaurateurs what they use. They can offer you first-hand knowledge and advice on what worked best for them. In addition, the Foodservice Packaging Institute recently released a free Strategic Sourcing Guide that focuses on foodservice operators specifically. The guide offers operators the following:

  • Direction on where to source foodservice packaging
  • Outlines details operators should provide to potential suppliers when considering a switch in packaging; and
  • Lists questions operators should consider asking those suppliers.


Answering the legislative question, however, is a little tougher. Operators need to keep an eye on the following topics:

Extended Producer Responsibility: EPR programs make producers responsible for the costs of managing their products at the “end of use.” It’s important to note that “producer” is often defined as the brand owner, not the packaging producer. Given the highly questionable effectiveness of these programs, which are in place in other parts of the world, FPI works with its allies to oppose EPR for packaging proposals.

Bans, fees and mandates: Gone are the days when legislation targeted one material or product. Consider the case of carryout bags. Initially, plastic bags were the target; then, legislators went after paper. Today, it’s rare to see a bill that doesn’t suggest banning plastic, placing a fee on paper and encouraging the use of reusable bags. Luckily for foodservice operators, most, but not all, bag bills have exempted restaurants.

Similarly, early bans on polystyrene foam morphed into bans on not just foam, but also on rigid polystyrene, which is used in cups, containers, lids and cutlery. Some of the latest legislation targeting foodservice packaging includes not just bans, but also mandates to use recyclable or compostable foodservice packaging. While we certainly support recyclable or composting packaging, we do not support government intervention that limits packaging choices for foodservice operators.

Lynn Dyer is president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute, the trade association representing members of North America’s foodservice packaging industry. Contact her at fpi@fpi.org for more information.