The truth about food packaging

The truth about food packaging

If you have moved to providing takeaway to your customers over the last year, you will have needed to purchase packaging products. This packaging not only keeps your food warm, but helps ensure it reaches its destination in one piece!

The question is… which type of packaging is the most environmentally friendly, and do customers really care how you have packaged up their food?

In this article, we will try to answer these questions.

The current state of play

The UK is aiming to become carbon neutral by the year 2050. This may seem like a long way away, but the UK currently produces over 350 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year!

The UK Government is taking steps to help reduce the amount of CO2 produced by businesses. For example, in October 2020, the Government placed a ban on the use of single-use plastic products like straws and drinks stirrers. In April this year, the price of plastic carrier bags will double to 10p, and small businesses will no longer be exempt from the charge.

This means that environmentally friendly packaging is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but is needed to stay compliant.

Do customers care about how their food is packaged?

Unsurprisingly, the answer is yes.

Two out of three people say that they are more likely to buy products that come in environmentally friendly packaging. 74% of these people say that they would be happy to pay more for green packaging.

When it comes to being environmentally friendly, London is the most eco-friendly city in the world. Those that live and work in the capital are more likely to take measures to reduce the amount of rubbish they create.

What does this mean for your business? It means that making the switch to environmentally friendly packaging could not only improve your green credentials, but increase your level of sales too.

Recyclable, compostable, biodegradable… what’s the difference?

If you need to consider packaging for your takeaway food offering, there are a wide range of different options out there.

The terms recyclable, compostable and biodegradable are often used interchangeably when referring to packaging, but this is not entirely accurate. There are some differences between the three.

  • Recyclable packaging can be turned into new products. About 80% of household waste can be recycled, but only about 45% is
  • Compostable packaging breaks down in a specific timeframe, usually between six to twelve weeks. This packaging can either be composted at home, or collected by the local council to be composted
  • Biodegradable packaging breaks down eventually, but unlike compostable products, there is no timeframe. For example, plastic cups are technically biodegradable, but can take up to 450 years to decompose

The different types of packaging available for your business

Now that we have looked at the different terminology, which type of packaging is the best choice for your food business?

Note: What can be recycled varies from council to council – if in doubt, we’d recommend getting in touch with your local authority.


Paper is often used to wrap up food like fish and chips. However, although you may think paper is a great recyclable option, it’s not in reality.

This is because paper absorbs grease and liquids, meaning that it can’t be put in the recycling bin.

Why does this cause a problem? When cardboard and paper are sent to be recycled, they are combined with water to create a mushy slurry. If paper or cardboard are contaminated with other liquids, this will ruin the mixture, meaning that everything has to be thrown into landfill.

This means that paper has to be put in the general waste, unless it is completely clean.


Commonly used for Indian and Chinese food, foil cartons can be recycled – they just need to be rinsed clean first.

Recycling foil only uses 5% of the energy it takes to make foil from scratch.


If you use cardboard boxes to serve food like pizza, then they may be able to be recycled. Your local council will be able to accept cardboard that is free of food or grease.

If boxes are covered in grease or food, they can be composted instead. Just rip the cardboard into thin strips and put it in your composting bin.


Polystyrene is commonly used for takeaway packaging, as it is cheap and insulates food well. Unfortunately, it cannot be recycled or composted.

We would not recommend reusing polystyrene for food storage. This is because bacteria are easily trapped in this type of material.


Wondering if you can recycle your plastic takeaway containers? It depends. There are different types of plastic used, some of which can be recycled and some of which can’t. There should be a symbol on the base of the container which will tell you if it can be cleaned and put into the recycling.

If plastics are single-use (for example, polyethene terephthalate, or PET for short), we would not recommend using them again. This is because these containers can leach chemicals into the food if reused.

Other materials

Different materials are becoming available for packaging all the time.

For example, straws and drink stirrers made from pasta are now an option. Once these have been used, they can be composted.

Some restaurants are also encouraging customers to bring their own containers for leftovers and takeaway food.

Confused about packaging? Crowbond is here to help

There are many different types of packaging out there, and if you are still not sure about which type is the best for your business, Crowbond is the expert.

As well as fresh produce, speciality food and drinks, we also sell different types of environmentally friendly packaging options. From foil through to plastic, we have all your needs covered.

Check out our packaging collection, or contact us if you want more information about which packaging is the most environmentally friendly choice for your business.


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