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Myth Busting: The Impact of Food Residue in Foodservice Packaging Recycling

Released 11/26/2013

The Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) announced the completion of a study on the levels of food residue on foodservice packaging (FSP) in the recycling stream, which overall, found that there was no appreciable difference in the amount of contamination between foodservice packaging and broader types of food packaging typically accepted in curbside recycling programs.


FPIs Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group are working on overcoming barriers that potentially hinder increased recovery of foodservice packaging. One of the often-cited reasons cities do not accept foodservice packaging in their curbside programs is a concern about increased levels of food contamination. This study offered the opportunity to better understand whether food contamination was a real or perceived barrier.


The study included a sampling of approximately 2,000 pounds of randomly selected curbside recyclables collected in different areas of the City of Boston. For all recycling samples, corrugated, mixed paper, plastic tubs and lids, aluminum cans and foils/pans, were sorted into two categories, foodservice 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," said Lynn M. Dyer, FPI president. "The recycling samples were found to be exceptionally clean, and showed no appreciable difference in the amount of contamination between foodservice 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, theres more work to be done."


The results of this study will be presented during a webinar to be hosted by FPI on December 3 at 1:30 PM Eastern Time; more information on the webinar may be found here.  More information on this recovery project may be found on FPI's website at


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