By Catherine Moran
I read some exciting news about my neighborhood last week: starting this summer, New York City is banning foam food packaging. Additionally, foam packing peanuts will no longer be sold in the city. This means that food cart vendors (of which there are many) will have to find a different way of sending you off with your food. This is exciting news for the treehuggers, but city officials have been fair to those who oppose the initiative, giving supporters of foam packaging a year (in 2013) to prove that the material could be recycled. Their findings? Foam cannot be recycled.
This is, on the whole, great news. However, nonprofits and smaller businesses can apply for exemptions if they can prove that purchasing other containers would be a financial hardship. It’s not difficult to imagine that cart vendors will receive this exemption; thus, the ban will not completely eliminate the use of foam containers in the city. But, hey, it’s a pretty good start! A step forward, no matter how small, is still a step forward.
This leads to another interesting idea: alternatives to foam packaging. Many restaurants in NYC use #5 plastics, which can now be recycled in the city’s recycling program (or brought to Whole Foods—or other participating stores—to be recycled as part of Preserve’s Gimme 5 Program). #5 packaging is the most sensible packaging alternative for vendors, but! What if, in the future, foods (although maybe not hot to-go food) could be purchased in…edible packaging? Yes, the future is here. At this date in time, Wikipearl is still in development, and working to overcome challenges, but you can buy yogurt and ice cream in edible packaging in some Whole Foods stores. Whoa!
The idea behind Wikipearl is that we buy produce, such as grapes or apples, that’s in edible packaging, meaning that there is no waste associated with the item. What if most of the food we buy was sold in packaging that could be consumed or composted? We’d cut down on so much waste! There’s a ways to go with the idea of edible packaging, but it’s an idea that may prove fruitful in future.
2015 is shaping up to be a good year for green enterprising. Let’s hope the trend continues!
Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.