Benchmarking study dispels foodservice packaging recycling myths

A recent benchmarking survey commissioned by the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI), Falls Church, Va., finds widespread but varied acceptance of foodservice packaging by material recovery facilities (MRFs).

“We are encouraged by the number of material recovery facilities already accepting various foodservice packaging,” says Lynn M. Dyer, president. “We have found that both the industry and consumers often think these products are not recycled. This study not only refutes that assumption but shows promise for increased acceptance.”

Responses from nearly 70 MRFs in the U.S. and Canada showed that the three most accepted products are cup sleeves, pizza boxes and paper carryout bags, with rigid plastic items such as cups and takeout containers being accepted by a majority of MRFs.

Resource Recycling Systems conducted the survey for FPI’s Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group to identify baseline acceptance levels and measure future progress. Using 19 specific types of packaging including cups, containers, boxes and bags made from different plastic and paper-based materials, the survey also sought to identify factors affecting MRFs’ acceptance of packaging. Responses pointed to the availability of end markets for the recovered materials as the greatest driver of acceptance.

“This benchmark study also shows that we’re on the right track with our systemic, MRF-to-market approach to increasing recovery of foodservice packaging,” says Dyer.

The full report, titled Acceptance of Foodservice Packaging by Material Recovery Facilities in the U.S. and Canada, is available to members of the two recovery groups. Nonmembers can find a two-page survey overview as well as additional information on FPI’s recovery projects at www.fpi.org/stewardship.

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