“Why are reusable containers better? What about compostable, recyclable, or biodegradable containers? Aren’t those just fine?”
We hear these questions all the time at BizeeBox. Our answer is simple: no matter how you look at it, reusable takeout containers make more sense than single-use containers.
Why is this, exactly? There are two main reasons:
First, every time a reusable takeout container is used, that’s one less single-use container manufactured for just one meal.
All takeout containers, even the ones BizeeBox uses, require resources and energy to manufacture and ship a long distance before they end up at a restaurant. But while single-use containers can only be used, well, a single time, BizeeBoxes can be used up to 350 times.
And that’s where the benefits come in. After they’ve been reused a certain number of times (we call this the “magic number”), reusable containers clearly beat the other options because of avoided manufacturing and transportation costs. When compared to polystyrene (a.k.a. StyrofoamTM), reusable takeout containers have a magic number between 24 and 30 uses; when compared to compostable containers, the magic number can be as low as 20.
Second, most single-use containers end up in the landfill no matter what they’re made from.
Recyclable plastic containers can be turned into something useful if they stay out of the landfill, but they don’t. In 2011, only about 13% of plastic containers and packaging were actually recycled in the U.S.
Compostable containers have a similar story. In 2011, less than 10% of municipal solid waste was recovered for composting. And compostable containers do not “compost” in landfill conditions. Instead, they behave more like regular trash.
Biodegradable takeout containers are meant to break down at the end of their lifecycles, causing no permanent damage to the environment. But they actually might do more harm than good because it turns out they release potent greenhouse gases when landfilled.
Reuse is the best option.
To us, the outcome is clear: cleaning an existing container locally is simply better than manufacturing a new one that will quickly end up in the waste stream or be broken down into something of less value. And that’s why we founded BizeeBox.
We know you have more questions, so we’ll go deeper on this in future posts. In the meantime, what do you think about reusable takeout containers? Do they make sense in your town or at your favorite restaurant? Leave a comment and let us know what is on your mind!
We fully support recycling and composting. We are “those guys” digging recyclables and compostables out of trashcans and putting them in the proper bin. We also compost religiously (think of Phel annoying his roommates with mounds of vegetable scraps and chicken bones in the kitchen). But when it comes to takeout containers, we think that the best way to reduce waste is to promote reuse.