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Foodservice packaging no more contaminated than other materials: study


October 23, 2014
By Bakers Journal

Oct. 23, 2014, Falls Church, VA – Foodservice packaging
materials as a whole aren’t significantly more contaminated with food residue
than other food contact recyclables, suggests a new study.

 

Oct. 23, 2014, Falls Church, VA – Foodservice packaging
materials as a whole aren’t significantly more contaminated with food residue
than other food contact recyclables, suggests a new study.

 

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The Foodservice Packaging Institute recently completed the
second of two studies examining levels of food residue on foodservice packaging
in the residential recycling stream.

 

The study, which took place in southern Delaware, was
performed to corroborate the findings of a similar study completed in Boston
one year ago.

 

Overall, a strong majority of both foodservice and food
contact items displayed low to medium levels of food residue. The proportion of
items with high levels of residue was small and nearly the same between the two
types of packaging.

 

However, in some material categories, foodservice packaging
showed marginally higher levels of food residue within the low to medium
ranking levels. This means there was a slightly higher incidence of items with
medium levels of residue than food contact packaging.

 

“One of the most common reasons that municipal programs do
not accept foodservice packaging is the concern about increased levels of food
contamination in recyclables,” said Lynn M. Dyer, FPI president, in a news
release. “Our association’s Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group
are conducting studies like this to better understand whether food
contamination is a real or perceived barrier to recovering more materials.”

 

The study included a sampling of approximately 2,600 pounds
of randomly selected residential recyclables collected in different areas of
southern Delaware. For all recycling samples, corrugated, mixed paper, tubs and
lids (including paper and plastic clamshells), and aluminum foils/pans were
sorted into two categories: foodservice packaging or other packaging in contact
with food. The team then used the same visual ranking system as established
with the first Boston study to rate and record how much food resided on the
selected categories.

 

“The encouraging results of the Delaware study provide us a
different representative sample of food residue on foodservice packaging,” said
Dyer. “They assist in corroborating our findings of foodservice packaging
residue as a perceived barrier in recycling programs rather than a real
obstacle.”

 

 “Although the samples
in the Delaware study appeared to be more contaminated than the Boston samples,
the end result showed that foodservice packaging materials as a whole aren’t
significantly more contaminated with food residue than other food contact
recyclables,” said Dyer. “Rather, the recycling of all packaging collected,
including foodservice and food contact, can be negatively impacted by refuse
and other sources of contamination in the stream.”

 

The results of the Delaware study will be presented during an FPI
webinar on Oct. 28, at 2 p.m. EDT. Information on the
webinar may be found here.