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Whatís Wrong with Reusables? Part 2

Lately, it seems thereís been a lot of attention on how we should move away from single-use items and chose reusables instead. I was in a meeting recently with staff from a very large East Coast city, who said their hope is to move completely to reusables within their city, helping with the cityís zero waste goals. I listened in to a webinar on "ReThink Disposable: A program to reduce the amount of marine debris-prone items used in the food service industry." I read yesterday about a grant being offered to businesses in a Midwest city that could fund "equipment needed to switch from disposable packaging to reusable packaging for products and supplies." And, itís not just in North America. Legislation was recently introduced in Europe that would restrict single-use products for the sake of litter prevention.

Whether it's to achieve zero waste goals or prevent litter found on land or in waterways, we have to remember why we have single-use foodservice packaging in the first place, and the benefits it offers over its reusable counterparts.

You've probably hear me say it over and over again, but our products were invented over 100 years ago to provide a more sanitary alternative to their reusable counterparts and help protect public health. FPI has commissioned numerous independent studies with third-party laboratories to confirm the sanitary advantage of single-use foodservice packaging over reusables (check out the results in our "Sanitation" related Resources).

I know that sometimes foodservice operators will consider switching to reusables in an attempt to save money or be more "environmentally conscious." In reality, an operator may not have the expense of purchasing foodservice packaging, but they should compare that to the costs of expensive equipment (dishwashers and other support equipment like racks, carts, dollies, shelving, bins, etc.), additional labor and need for non-revenue producing storage space. And donít forget the bills for water, detergents and energy used by dishwashers. Or the costs to replace reusables that are broken, damaged, stolen or accidentally discarded.

 I sometimes get the question of whether FPI would ever support the use of reusables. Thatís a tough one, given that weíve spent the last 80-plus years advocating for the interests of the single-use foodservice packaging industry and promoting its part in protecting public health. And I havenít even touched on the role that foodservice packaging plays in our fast-paced, time-crunched society. Todayís consumers rely on sanitary food-to-go options, and I don't see that changing in the future.

 While the debate over single-use versus reusables will continue, the benefits of single-use are undeniable, as is the way in which our products support the trends of the broader foodservice industry. Are we biased? Of course. But for good reason.

Posted By Lynn M. Dyer (President) | 6/21/2016 1:18:01 PM