How Reusable To-Go Containers Can Simplify Dining Operations: Webinar Recap

This past Tuesday, Dishcraft hosted a webinar panel discussion on the intersecting challenges corporations are facing In serving employee diners in safe and convenient foodware (which is typically interpreted to mean single-serve to-go containers), the problematic facts for both plastic and compostable single-use containers, and the additional complexities that companies face with their waste streams.

Our panel, moderated by Dishcraft CEO Linda Pouliot, included Chelsee Warneke from Affirm, bringing the perspective of Workplace managers to the conversation, Samantha Sommers from UPSTREAM, helping us to understand the environmental implications behind the use of plastics and compostables, and Mary Lindemuth from the City of Sunnyvale, sharing her knowledge of the governmental requirements in California as well as the current state of corporate waste streams.

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Corporate Food Service – Safe and Satisfying?

During the conversation, Chelsee shared some of the challenges that Affirm as well as other companies are facing with making the return to work both fun and safe, while still trying to minimize the waste they’re generating. She said she’s focusing on opportunities to increase satisfaction by re-starting coffee service, hopefully soon with reusable cups, as well as looking to replace individually packaged snacks with creative solutions, like gravity fed bins that minimize handling, yet don’t introduce lots of single-serve packaging into the equation.

While there is such a big swing to single-use for safety reasons, Samantha clarified that there has been no regulatory certification of the safety of single-use items, and currently there is no proof that paper-based cups or single-use plastics are safer than thoroughly sanitized reusable foodware. 

 

Some Shocking Numbers on the Environmental Side

Sam shared some astounding figures from UPSTREAM’s newly published report, Reuse Wins. Their new research indicates that food service uses close to 1 trillion (yes, that’s trillion with a T) disposable foodware items each year, leading to 9 million tons of waste. While that might seem unrelated to corporate food service,

Mary was quick to jump in with her own stats. Based on her audits of corporate campuses in Sunnyvale, she typically sees 40 – 60% of corporate waste coming from single-use foodware. But that’s not all – the large majority of these waste streams are so mixed (recyclables with compostables with trash) that everything ends up in landfills.

 

Aren’t Compostables Better?

Sam also helped to dispel this myth by talking about the “greenwashing” of single-use compostables, or what the team at UPSTREAM likes to refer to as the “regrettable substitutes” for plastics.

Regrettable Substitutes(Source: Reuse Wins, UPSTREAM.org)

As explained and charted in their report, UPSTREAM has found that many compostables actually fare worse than their plastic counterparts in terms of their overall environmental impact.

The conversation continued with an animated discussion of more of the implications of garbage and waste disposal, including concepts like the “double cost” of trash, the savings from reusables, and the challenges of sorting trash, including employment of teams that just focus on sorting garbage.

The panel went on to address audience questions and nerdy topics, like how the lifecycle of maggots led to typical garbage pickup schedules. If you missed out on the conversation, we’ll be posting the video of the discussion shortly.

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Questions or Suggestions?

If you have additional questions on any of the topics discussed in the Tuesday event, or suggestions for future webinar topics, we’d love to hear from you! Don’t hesitate to let us know at contact@dishcraft.com.

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