This is the login panel


Return to Stewardship

Foodservice Packaging Recovery Toolkit

No matter what part of the value chain you’ve involved in, if you’re not recovering foodservice packaging (FSP), it is something you should consider. It may help reduce your waste bills, generate a revenue stream, reduce your environmental impact, increase waste diversion, and help meet the growing expectations of your residents or customers. And what’s more, it can often be done quite easily.


FPI’s Paper Recovery Alliance (PRA) and Plastics Recovery Group (PRG) have worked to understand recovery from many different perspectives. For this reason, the resources found in this “Foodservice Packaging Recovery Toolkit” are organized by sector – for communities, material recovery facilities (MRFs) and end markets. Just click on the section that best describes your interest to find the information most relevant to you, or since these interests are all interconnected, feel free to browse the other sections.


The toolkit presents lessons learned by those currently engaged in successful recovery of foodservice packaging. It is a source of information on what foodservice packaging is currently being recovered, how it’s being collected, how it’s being processed and where it’s being marketed. It is an evolving instrument, and consequently will continue to expand in its scope and depth of information.


But before we get to the specific sections, some valuable background on foodservice packaging sure to be of interest to all...


What is Foodservice Packaging?
When we talk about "foodservice packaging," (or "FSP," for short) we're referring to those cups, containers, wraps, boxes, bags, lids, cutlery, straws and stirrers, etc. used by restaurants and other foodservice establishments.  These items are primarily made from a variety of paper and plastic materials.  FSP may also be made from aluminum, which is often already  included in community recycling programs.

How Much Foodservice Packaging is Out There?
The amount of foodservice packaging available to be recovered is an often misunderstood. In fact, it is a much smaller amount than many expect. According to the Environmental Protection Agency and FPI’s own research, paper and plastic foodservice packaging account for just 1 to 3 percent of municipal solid waste (additional details may be found here.) Further study by FPI reveals that nearly two-thirds of the total FSP tonnage is cups, containers, boxes and paper bags. It’s also interesting to note that in terms of units, FSP is split pretty evenly paper and plastic, but by weight, it’s a different story: approximately one-third of the material is plastic and two-thirds is paper.

Where is Foodservice Packaging Found?

If you want to recover a material, you need to be able to collect it, right? This is a tricky question for foodservice packaging since so much of it is used (and disposed of) on the go. While foodservice packaging is found at work, at home, in foodservice establishments and public spaces, approximately two-thirds of foodservice packaging ends up in the home and at the workplace. Only about one-third of foodservice packaging stays where it is purchased, or at the “front of the store.”


Because of this, the project is initially focused on recovery of FSP disposed of at home or in the office since there is already an existing infrastructure for its recovery through residential and office recycling and composting programs. In 2014, additional work will focus on “front of the store” foodservice packaging recovery, and a special section will be added to this toolkit geared to foodservice operators.


Can Foodservice Packaging Be Recovered?

Yes – but perhaps not all (yet). Foodservice packaging like those cups, containers, boxes and paper bags that make up the vast majority of FSP should be considered a valuable material that can be successfully collected, processed and recovered. Why? Fortunately these items lend themselves to recovery since…

  • they are made of paper and plastic materials that are often already recovered at MRFs;
  • their size enables them to successfully be recovered at a MRF facility; and
  • there are many recycling markets looking for new sources of feedstock

Other items like wraps, cutlery, lids, straws and stirrers pose additional recovery challenges (like size and shape), which the PRA and PRG will address in the future. Stay tuned for updates when available.


Of course, recycling isn’t the only option for used foodservice packaging. Composting and energy recovery are also great options depending on the product and local infrastructure. While many of the toolkit resources are related to recycling, the PRA and PRG support all possible recovery methods that allow foodservice packaging to reach its highest and best use.


For more specific information on foodservice packaging recovery, please click below: