What is foodservice packaging? What are the benefits? Why is it necessary? How does it contribute to the circular economy? 

What is foodservice packaging?

Foodservice packaging includes products used for the service or packaging of prepared foods and drinks in eat-in or takeaway foodservice establishments and increasingly for home delivery.

It includes:
Hot and cold beverage cups
Bags (single service and takeaway)
Containers and lids
Cutlery and utensils
Ice cream and soup cups
Beverage carriers
Labels, front and back of house
Cling film and aluminium foil
Ancillaries such as straws, stirrers, napkins and sachets

What are the benefits?

Foodservice packaging is:
Mostly recyclable
Cost effective, lightweight, easy to store

Why is it necessary?

Foodservice packaging exists to fulfil a need for convenience, to enable people to enjoy food and drink on the go, at work or at home. It is the means without which these services could not exist. Food to go, or on the move, has emerged as a significant element of the UK economy over the past 50 years, transforming the High Street, workplace and more recently providing interest and variety to food consumed at home during recent lockdowns.

Foodservice packaging is produced in a sterile environment to strict food contact regulations, ensuring that each and every item that reaches the consumer is sterile and hygienic. In some environments, such as hospitals and care home, meals and beverages are sometimes served using foodservice packaging in order to keep infection and cross contamination rates to a minimum.

How does it contribute to the circular economy?

Foodservice packaging is largely, but not exclusively, made from recyclable paper, card and plastic.

Paper and cardboard, including regular paper cups, are widely recycled in the UK through kerbside, retail take-back, bring bank facilities, on the go and work place collections. Paper supplied to manufacture these products in the UK is all sustainably sourced from renewable resources.

The most commonly used plastics in foodservice packaging are: polyethylene terephthalate (PET), recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), expanded polystyrene (EPS) and high density [polyethylene (HDPE). All of these are widely recycled in the UK; polystyrene is accepted for recycled by some local authorities and great progress is being made in technical and chemical recycling of all plastics.

FPA members fully endorse programmes to encourage the increased collection and recycling of foodservice packaging and recognises the value to the economy of recovering and reusing these materials.