Guide for Purchasing Sustainable Takeout Containers

Purchasing the right takeout containers is an important decision. Not only are also demonstrating to your customers and the community that your business is committed to making the most environmentally preferred business decisions, but you also have the opportunity to drive the takeout container market to provide more sustainable options at a lower price.

Food Serviceware Purchasing Guide

Reusing food serviceware and avoiding single use containers, utensils, and accessories is always the best option. However, for single use items, unfortunately, choosing the “next best” alternative can be difficult. There are a variety of factors to consider including greenhouse gas pollution, human toxicity, ecotoxicity, water conservation, resource conservation, ocean pollution, land use, fossil fuel use, and more. For single use food serviceware, the majority of the environmental impacts come from the material creation/extraction and production, not whether they are recycled, composted, or landfilled after their use. Also, being made from biobased or compostable materials, does not reliably mean that the products have a lower environmental impact. Materials and scientific research about them will continue to evolve but current scientific studies indicate that there is no single material that reliably predicts lower environmental impacts over an alternative product. In fact, compostable food serviceware generally has a worse environmental impact than other alternatives, except where it causes additional food waste to be composted. Also, once a product type and material is chosen, increasing the recycled content in that material has a reliably positive impact. This means that for now, compostability or recyclability should not be used as indicators of reduced environmental impacts, rather, the most appropriate product should be chosen given the specific conditions of the facility and community using the guide below.

For further reading on the subject, see the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality meta studies on foodservice ware lifecycle assessments and the Biodegradable Products Institute response.

When purchasing, consider the waste services available to your customer’s residences. Below is some guidance per community:

Per the City of Boulder’s Universal Zero Waste Ordinance, compost and recycling services are available to all residences and businesses.

  • Best overall: reusable serviceware
  • Next best alternative: compostable takeout containers and serviceware that is both CMA and BPI certified
  • Third best alternative: recyclable takeout containers that contain post-consumer recycled content and are accepted per Boulder County recycling guidelines

Best practice: offer disposable utensils only upon request from customers and assume customers have access to reusable utensils in their homes. The same could be applied to condiments, like salt, pepper, and ketchup.

Please be aware, there are NO disposable cups, NO disposable cup lids, and NO utensils that are recyclable in Boulder County. When purchasing these items, it is best to choose compostable options that are both CMA and BPI certified.

Recycling services are available to Erie residences.

  • Best overall: reusable serviceware
  • Next best alternative: recyclable takeout containers that contain post-consumer recycled content and are accepted per Boulder County recycling guidelines

Best practice: offer disposable utensils only upon request from customers and assume customers have access to reusable utensils in their homes. The same could be applied to condiments, like salt, pepper, and ketchup.

Please be aware, there are NO disposable cups, NO disposable cup lids, and NO utensils that are recyclable in Boulder County. When purchasing these items, consider purchasing items with post-consumer recycled content so that they at least support the use of recycled materials even if they are destined for the landfill.

Compost and recycling services are available to all residential homes. While it is not required to be offered, many multi family units have compost and recycling services.

  • Best overall: reusable serviceware
  • Next best alternative: compostable takeout containers and serviceware that is both CMA and BPI certified
  • Third best alternative: recyclable takeout containers that contain post-consumer recycled content and are accepted per Boulder County recycling guidelines

Best practice: offer disposable utensils only upon request from customers and assume customers have access to reusable utensils in their homes. The same could be applied to condiments, like salt, pepper, and ketchup.

Please be aware, there are NO disposable cups, NO disposable cup lids, and NO utensils that are recyclable in Boulder County. When purchasing these items, it is best to choose compostable options that are both CMA and BPI certified.

While not all homes will have compost and recycling, the services are available for all Longmont residences.

  • Best overall: reusable serviceware
  • Next best alternative: based on business’ preference and access to compost service collection:
    • Compostable takeout containers and serviceware that is both CMA and BPI certified.
    • Recyclable takeout containers that contain post-consumer recycled content and are accepted per Boulder County recycling guidelines

Best practice: offer disposable utensils only upon request from customers and assume customers have access to reusable utensils in their homes. The same could be applied to condiments, like salt, pepper, and ketchup.

Please be aware, there are NO disposable cups, NO disposable cup lids, and NO utensils that are recyclable in Boulder County. When purchasing these items, either choose compostable options that are both CMA and BPI certified OR items with post-consumer recycled content so that they at least support the use of recycled materials even if they are destined for the landfill.

Compost and recycling services are available to all residential homes. While it is not required to be offered, many multi family units have compost and recycling services.

  • Best overall: reusable serviceware
  • Next best alternative: compostable takeout containers and serviceware that is both CMA and BPI certified
  • Third best alternative: recyclable takeout containers that contain post-consumer recycled content and are accepted per Boulder County recycling guidelines

Best practice: offer disposable utensils only upon request from customers and assume customers have access to reusable utensils in their homes. The same could be applied to condiments, like salt, pepper, and ketchup.

Please be aware, there are NO disposable cups, NO disposable cup lids, and NO utensils that are recyclable in Boulder County. When purchasing these items, it is best to choose compostable options that are both CMA and BPI certified.

Recycling services are available to Lyons residences.

  • Best overall: reusable serviceware
  • Next best alternative: recyclable takeout containers that contain post-consumer recycled content and are accepted per Boulder County recycling guidelines

Best practice: offer disposable utensils only upon request from customers and assume customers have access to reusable utensils in their homes. The same could be applied to condiments, like salt, pepper, and ketchup.

Please be aware, there are NO disposable cups, NO disposable cup lids, and NO utensils that are recyclable in Boulder County. When purchasing these items, consider purchasing items with post-consumer recycled content so that they at least support the use of recycled materials even if they are destined for the landfill.

Recycling services are available to Nederland residences.

  • Best overall: reusable serviceware
  • Next best alternative: recyclable takeout containers that contain post-consumer recycled content and are accepted per Boulder County recycling guidelines

Best practice: offer disposable utensils only upon request from customers and assume customers have access to reusable utensils in their homes. The same could be applied to condiments, like salt, pepper, and ketchup.

Please be aware, there are NO disposable cups, NO disposable cup lids, and NO utensils that are recyclable in Boulder County. When purchasing these items, consider purchasing items with post-consumer recycled content so that they at least support the use of recycled materials even if they are destined for the landfill.

While not all homes will have compost and recycling, the services are available for all Superior residences.

  • Best overall: reusable serviceware
  • Next best alternative: based on business’ preference and access to compost service collection:
    • Compostable takeout containers and serviceware that is both CMA and BPI certified.
    • Recyclable takeout containers that contain post-consumer recycled content and are accepted per Boulder County recycling guidelines

Best practice: offer disposable utensils only upon request from customers and assume customers have access to reusable utensils in their homes. The same could be applied to condiments, like salt, pepper, and ketchup.

Please be aware, there are NO disposable cups, NO disposable cup lids, and NO utensils that are recyclable in Boulder County. When purchasing these items, either choose compostable options that are both CMA and BPI certified OR items with post-consumer recycled content so that they at least support the use of recycled materials even if they are destined for the landfill.

Recycling services are available to residences in Unincorporated Boulder County.

  • Best overall: reusable serviceware
  • Next best alternative: recyclable takeout containers that contain post-consumer recycled content and are accepted per Boulder County recycling guidelines

Best practice: offer disposable utensils only upon request from customers and assume customers have access to reusable utensils in their homes. The same could be applied to condiments, like salt, pepper, and ketchup.

Please be aware, there are NO disposable cups, NO disposable cup lids, and NO utensils that are recyclable in Boulder County. When purchasing these items, consider purchasing items with post-consumer recycled content so that they at least support the use of recycled materials even if they are destined for the landfill.