December 3rd, 2013
I attended the hearing last evening in Albany held by the County Executive Dan McCoy, who listened to statements from folks regarding the proposed ban on foamed polystyrene food packaging. There was a good mix of people from individual citizens to local union workers to manufacturers. It was interesting listening to the people who were in favor of the ban and their misguided arguments. It became clear that much of what the proponents of the ban were saying was pulled from urban legend emails and internet chatter concocted by those who would demonize what they don’t like. The following is a summary and subsequent debunking of their arguments.
- Foamed polystyrene is “clogging” our landfills. FALSE! The EPA stated that in 2011, as a nation we generated 250MM tons of trash. Of that trash, 12.7% is listed as plastic. Keep in mind that is all plastics from shampoo bottles & toys to durable goods such as furniture. They estimate that only 2.8% of that plastic is non-durable goods such as plates, bowls and cups. The EPA did not segregate solid plastic from foamed plastic which, is the material being targeted in this ban. Consider for a moment that a foam 12 ounce bowl weighs about 58% less than a solid plastic 12 ounce bowl and you can reasonably concluded that the actual amount of foamed foodservice items going into landfills is more around the 1.5% number. Now I do not have a number I can hang on the word “clogging”, but 1.5% of something is far from any reasonable definition.
- Foam polystyrene is dangerous to your health. FALSE! One lady who spoke actually stated that these items were poisonous and why would we want to use poisonous products. The sad part was, she was not being facetious and had been convinced that foamed foodservice items would do her serious harm. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. Foam foodservice items have been safely used for over 40 years. The FDA has approved foam foodservice items to be safe for food contact. In fact there are studies done by the Nevada Health Department that show the use of single use packaging is actually more safe that permanent ware due to lower microbial levels. Think about it. How many times have you gone out to eat and noticed your plate or silverware had little specs of food dried on it? This simply never happens with foam food packaging. There was also a fair bit of chatter regarding the component styrene. This is an instance where people hear what they want to and disregard the rest. The fact is, styrene is a liquid whereas polystyrene is an inert solid. I’ve never seen a liquid version of a foam food container. Furthermore, styrene is present naturally in many foods we eat including beef, strawberries, wheat and cinnamon. In fact you’d be exposed to far more styrene by eating one cinnamon donut than drinking 30 cups of coffee from a foam cup. I have not heard of any bans on cinnamon donuts though. Why? Simple, the amount of exposure is so incredibly small, it is measured in parts per billion. The plain truth is foam foodservice products are totally safe. History, the FDA and the scientific facts support that claim whereas those who claim otherwise rely on hyperbole, urban legends and misinformation to confuse and misguide folks like that poor little lady who thought it was poisonous.
- Foam containers contribute to litter. Should this ban go through, Albany County would simply be trading one type of litter for another. The ban calls for replacements items to be compostable. Here again, the folks in the audience who brought up this point simply don’t know that even though an item may be designated as compostable, it simply will not go away like they think it will if littered. I know this because as a company we offer many compostable products and know that they will only compost when deposited in professionally run compost facilities that have control over heat and moisture exposure. One gentleman displayed a cup that had been littered and said if that were a paper cup or other compostable item, it would have gone away. That is simply not true. Consider this, it takes a leaf one full year to biodegrade back into the forest floor. How long do you think it would take a compostable cup or bowl, if littered to fully biodegrade? I’ll bet that gentleman thought it was maybe a month or two. I think not. More like a couple of years. Addressing the litter issue by banning a particular product in favor of a far more expensive (2 times more) item just places undo financial hardship on business owners who use those products. It does nothing about litter. A litterbug is going to litter that cup no matter what it is made of. It seems to me increasing fines and actually going after the litterbugs would do much more in controlling litter than banning a product. Catch someone and fine them $200 bucks for chucking a cup out their window will quickly change their minds on how to properly dispose of that cup. Litter is not something caused by foodservice single-use items. Litter is caused by unmanaged and overflowing trash receptacles, the general lack of properly placed trash receptacles and unscrupulous people who knowingly and illegally dump their refuse into the environment. Not that any litter is good, I thought it would be helpful to know that “fast food” packaging which is what we are talking about here, actually is a very small percentage of the total litter. Here is a graphic right from Keep America Beautiful that shows these containers are only 5.3% of the litter problem.
As you can see, I’ve linked in sources from reputable web sites and listed other references by name. Anything stated here can be looked up and verified…unlike most all of the wild claims made by proponents of the ban last night. I really think that 90% of the folks that spoke in favor of the ban are good people that are just not informed of the true facts. They have bought into the misinformation and outright falsehoods spread by the other 10% who simply have it out for “big business”. Hopefully the eight Genpakers along with the employees from other food packaging manufacturers that were present, helped to put faces behind company names. We are folks just like them who live and raise families right here in New York State. I doubt my little blog here will change the minds of those 10% who only hear what fits into their ideology, but for those other people, I truly hope that you will read and consider the facts before passing judgement.
November 27th, 2013
Emperor Bloomberg is trying to inflict as much damage to the economy as he can prior to his exit as New York City Mayor by cramming through a ban that would stagnate job growth and raise consumer prices all while doing nothing to solve their litter issue. I think the most disturbing thing in that piece, was the video where all the school children were marched out by their “teachers” to chant against the polystyrene workers who came in support of their jobs. Typical it seems these days of certain groups. Demonize and belittle that which they do not agree with or which doesn’t fit into their ideology. A sad day for those poor school kids and shame on those “teachers” for forcing their personal views upon them.
October 17th, 2013
Here’s some articles worth reading.
- I don’t remember where I heard this, but someone once said, “anything that can be invented has already been invented”. This new concept slaps that notion down. I’ll be looking for this new packaging at the grocery store.
- McDonald’s to begin placing paperback books into happy meals. Check out the critic’s comment at the end of this piece. What a nut. This guy would probably like nothing better than to run them out of business and send the millions employed by McD’s out on the street. Can he not be happy and a little satisfied that McD’s is encouraging kids to read and maybe learn a little at the same time? Get a life dude.
- A fitness center at my grocery store? I have mixed emotions about this one. Hopefully shoppers can’t see the folks working out.
- Recycling rates for PET continues to increase which is a good thing. For our part, we have been using post consumer recycled PET for many years now in the production of our clear APET products.
- Here’s an interesting concept for food packaging. I think this person has a future in packaging design!
- Food packaging designed for a trip to the Antarctic. Even though this is not Genpak packaging, you have to give credit where credit is due.
- Quick service restaurant CEO says Obamacare will hurt job creation and reduce staffing. This could have far reaching effects which will include food packaging decisions.
October 15th, 2013
Do you have a smart phone? I have a smart phone. My husband has a smart phone. My co-workers have smart phones. Everyone I know has a smart phone. Actually more than 56% of the US population has a smart phone. Eighty percent of young people, ages 18-34, own a smart phone. No wonder every website has a mobile version.
But that’s not what I’m getting at. With our population becoming more and more attached to their phone, restaurants need to get to consumers in different ways. Enter online ordering from your favorite fast casual restaurant. You can now get take-out food without even talking to someone. Catering decisions can be made quickly. Placing an order for your favorite dish right before you leave from work and picking it up on the way home just became more convenient. No one trying to upsell you on an appetizer or dessert. With the ease of ordering take-out food we have seen the increase in usage of our microwave safe containers.
Our Smart Set Pro and Harvest Pro product lines fit right in. Take away soups, appetizers and full meals can all be accommodated in these products. Smart Set Pro comes in two pieces black and clear bottoms with clear lids. You can still show off your products while keeping them hot. Don’t forget you can put your brand on the lids! Smart Set Pro containers are reusable.
Why not cement that idea of take-out from your restaurant even further when they are using it to store left-overs from home. Our Harvest Pro products are hinged containers made of polypropylene and natural minerals. Both of these options are leak resistant, recyclable, and microwave safe.
And don’t forget there’s an app for that. With the boom of the iPhone and Android, many restaurants now have loyalty apps that reward you with points, or coupons right in the palm of your hand, encouraging you to take-out, dine in, eat more, and bring friends.
October 15th, 2013
For me, the first change in how restaurants view take out packaging, began shortly after 9/11. Late September and October traditionally offers and abundance of Distributor food shows (both in the Fall and Spring). As I attended these shows a common theme came from the restaurant owners that attended these show. Their dine–in business was down but their take out business had increased. This was due to a nervous public not feeling safe to dine out just yet but they still wanted to enjoy their local restaurant’s signature entrees. The traditional doggie bag packaging did not fully represent their “Brand”. This gave rise to decorated containers and black take out packaging (highlights the food and not the package).
The second change I noticed was when my wife and I decided that, because we now had two young children, it was time to join the “Family Van generation”. As we shopped for this family transportation device, I noticed that a big selling feature was the multiple cup holders and easy folding tray tables these vans offered. We are truly a mobile society and the growth of the internet and social media makes that growth much faster. Imagine telling your parents back in the 1960’s, that the delicious looking sandwich you were eating came from…..the local Gas Station?
The take out industry has exploded in every shape and variety. Statistics show that more people take out their food than eat it in the restaurant. I used to tell distributor sales people about our products and how they function; now I tell them to ask the question to the restaurant owner. What do you want out of your take out program? Having a solid to go program helps you realize a tremendous source of profit. No wait staff, no waiting for table turnover, and no dish washing.
They say “you eat with your eyes” and if your brand is your food, then choosing take out packaging in this day and age is critical to your bottom line
October 11th, 2013
Here’s a few articles worth reading.
- An interesting piece on photographing frozen meals for the outer display carton. Reality or creative liberties? You decide.
- Sort of along the same lines as the previous post, but this one talks about on-line grocery shopping and the imagery used to sell those products.
- Same store restaurant sales slump in Q3. This coincides with the overall health of the economy I think…no matter what the government keeps telling us.
- Specialty drinks help restaurants cope with slumping beverage margins. And they are tasty I might add!
- Gluten free baked goods? Sound odd, but it looks like it has passed the trend phase. The good news is, all Genpak bakery products are 100% gluten free!
October 3rd, 2013
I was recently in the San Francisco airport and noticed that most of fine food establishments were serving their food in containers that were marked as compostable. We’ve talked about compostable containers many times before, in this blog. In fact as a company, we sell quite a lot of compostable packaging under our Harvest product lines. What struck me as odd was there were no collection points set up for these containers. The only option for disposal was into the trash receptacles. Once they go into those garbage cans, they are headed for the landfill. Unfortunately, most people mistakenly assume that the container will compost or go away in the landfill. This is not the case.
Studies have shown that even organic materials (food waste, lawn clippings) last a very long time. So I guess the question is, did these food operations decide to “go green” thinking the containers would be composted, were they forced to by legislation, or did they just make a conscious decision to do this as an internal initiative based on consumer feedback. In a perfect world, the answer would be the last. I believe the markets and consumers need to be the force behind these types of decisions, but it is my guess that in this case, they were forced to since most every food outlet was using compostable packaging. I find it hard to believe that every individual food operation in that airport thought the same way in terms of their food packaging.
Just to be clear, I’m packaging neutral when it comes to the substrate used since I work for a company that sells most every type available. Paper, plastics, hybrids and yes 100% certified compostable products. I just think it is best to allow the markets (consumers) decide which materials are desired. This goes against the thinking of many in the political arena who would rather pick on materials that are deemed easy targets due to customer misconception and internet folklore. One needs to really ask what their motives are. Is it because it’s the will of their constituents or that they want to have some sort of perceived accomplishment? You decide.
August 16th, 2013
Here are a few of the newsworthy articles involving food packaging, worth a look from this week.
- I find the science behind human behavior fascinating. This piece talks about what prompts people to choose one type of snack over another when it comes to the type of package it comes in.
- The correct type of food packaging can help prevent food waste. So true!
- Food tucks, now food trailers? Interesting concept. Note the comment about using compostable food packaging.
- Portland, OR city council proposes a short sighed bill that will increase the cost of your food purchased from food vendors. When will they learn that this type of bill does nothing more than making it hard for small business to thrive?
August 6th, 2013
More food packaging news worth a look…
- Consumers seem more in tune on the types of packaging used these days. So much so it can sway their decision to buy a product or not. For me it’s reusable & microwave safe packaging that can push me over the edge to purchase.
- Okay so this one about renaming fish really doesn’t have anything to do with food packaging, but the marketing guy inside me liked this enough to post.
- Beer, wine or liquor? Some interesting statistics on what people choose to drink, for those that chose to drink.
- The FDA has now defined what can be called gluten free. One thing is for sure…Genpak products are 100% gluten free!
- Food trucks at airports? Interesting concept. I wonder if it’ll take off? Okay that was bad but it made me chuckle.
- Take home catering can offer a great revenue stream. I like this article because we offer a full range of food packaging perfect for this type of application.