Sustainable Food Service Packaging

Written by Nancy

Jul 20, 2021

Sustainable Food Service Packaging

TIP No. 4 – Plastic Free Packaging Series

Gone are the days of the styrofoam container and more recently the plastic straw!

Restaurants, cafes, food trucks, you name it–Aussie’s love the convenience of ‘take-and-run’ food services but, we don’t love the environmental impact of single use packaging that comes with it.

When it comes to designing packaging there is a growing list of materials to choose from and considerations to make. In particular, food service packaging needs to be functional, meet food safety standards, be lightweight and durable and offer nice presentation to name a few.

Now add, low environmental impact to that list. 

In Australia, there are new regulatory requirements for reducing environmental impact of packaging.
I expect to see more regulations emerge in the coming years as we inch closer to 2025 and strive to meet the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“Packaging plays an important role in the food service sector. At the same time there is increasing pressure from consumers, governments and the community to reduce the environmental impact of food packaging.” ACPO Sustainable Packaging Guidelines

Sustainable packaging options

When I work with clients to improve the sustainability of their packaging, there are a lot of considerations to make before we even look at materials and design. Planning a brand’s packaging starts by exploring your business’ needs, sustainable goals, current waste stream and assessing various other areas of your business.

If you are wondering how you can improve the sustainability of your packaging, here are a few things to consider.

First, make sure you are working with suppliers and contractors who can point out greenwashing claims and design your packaging with the ‘big picture’ in mind not just focused on materials alone.

Second, do a full assessment of your current packaging and identify areas where you can reduce, remove or replace wasteful packaging with alternative materials.

Next, look at alternative materials that align with your sustainability goals ie. compostable, recyclable, reusable. Below are a few plastic-free packaging options to consider.

Plastic-free food service packaging options:

  • Custom-mouled pulp packaging made from reclaimed sugarcane pulp. Biopak BioCane range offers bowls, plates, trays, clamshells and sauce cups. These are certified compostable.
  • Kraft paper takeaway containers & boxes – Lined with PLA (polylactic acid) for moisture resistance. These are compostable and recyclable.
  • Pine boats, cups and cones – Made from pine/wood shavings. These are not designed to be used as plates but are ideal for entrees, desserts and canapes.
  • Palm leaf bio plates – Made from naturally shed palm sheaths. The sheaths are pressed and cleaned. No trees are cut down and no chemicals are added.
  • PLA plastic containers & cups – PLA (polylactic acid) derived from cornstarch. Industrial compostable. Caution these are heat sensitive, ideal for cold food and drink.


But don’t forget, the most eco-friendly option for packaging is no packaging. So, before you look at new materials, take some time to identify all areas where you can go without packaging or replace with reusables and/or returnable options. 

The sooner more brands start thinking sustainably and asking for renewable options, the faster we’ll see more affordable options and innovations from suppliers.

As a sustainable brand and packaging designer, I want to make it easy for more brands make their packaging less wasteful. I hope these tips help get you started thinking more sustainably.

If you want to learn more about how you can make your packaging more sustainable? Let’s Talk!

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