Study Focuses on Restaurant Packaging Scrap

Scrap paper and plastic generated at restaurants is worth recycling, trade association contends.

December 2, 2013
Recycling Today Staff
Municipal / IC&I

The Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI), Falls Church, Va. , has announced the completion of a study on the levels of food residue on food service packaging (FSP) in the recycling stream. The study found that overall there was “no appreciable difference in the amount of contamination between food service packaging and broader types of food packaging typically accepted in curbside recycling programs,” says the group.

FPI’s Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group are working on overcoming barriers that often hinder increased recovery of packaging from the food service industry, says FPI. One of the often-cited reasons cities do not accept food service packaging in their curbside programs is a concern about increased levels of food contamination. FPI says its study was designed to better understand whether food contamination was a real or perceived barrier.

The study included a sampling of about 2,000 pounds of curbside recyclables collected in different areas in Boston. For all recycling samples, corrugated, mixed paper, plastic tubs and lids and aluminum cans, foils and pans were sorted into two categories: food service packaging or other packaging in contact with food. The team then used a visual ranking system to rate and record how much food residue was on the selected categories.

“The results were very encouraging,” says Lynn Dyer, president of FPI. “The recycling samples were found to be exceptionally clean and showed no appreciable difference in the amount of contamination between food service packaging and food contact packaging. At least from this initial study, it looks like food contamination may be a perceived barrier and not a real one. However we must also take this into perspective and consider this sample as only representative of the Boston area. No doubt, there’s more work to be done.”

The results of the study will be presented during a webinar to be hosted by FPI Dec. 3, 2013.

More information on the webinar and the recovery project can be found on FPI’s website at