To the editor:
Look into your trash -- what do you see? Maybe it’s a soda can or the newspaper from last week. If there’s a plastic foam container from your dinner the other night, then you’re looking at a global environmental problem that has an easy solution.
The issue I’m talking about is the wasteful plastic and plastic foam containers that restaurants use for takeout. More often now than before the pandemic, people are ordering takeout for any meal of the day. What happens to the containers once all the food is gone is the worrying part. Estimates for how long it takes for plastic foam containers to decompose range from 500 years to 1 million years. That means the hamburger and french fries container sitting in your trash will be releasing harmful air pollutants, creating choking hazards for scavenging animals, and being eaten by marine life from its future home in a landfill or an ocean over the next dozens of generations. Even right now, people unknowingly consume an average of 5 grams of plastic every week from the food in the takeout containers as well as small particles that can be found in the fish we eat.
During the era of takeout, isn’t it time for restaurants to use more sustainable and environmentally friendly containers? Alternative materials such as paper bags, bagasse, and PLA-coated paper are already used by some and available for all businesses. It’s time for businesses to switch to compostable materials and hold the plastics when serving.