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What Kinds of Eco-Friendly Packaging Options Are There?

For a long time, the restaurant industry seemed to settle on one method of packaging take-out food orders: paper! Those classic containers that Chinese food comes in and cardboard pizza boxes, while not exactly compostable or sustainably produced, were the dominant forms of to-go food packaging with maybe the occasional metal tray for pasta. And then 2020 happened, and everything changed. 

It was not an overnight change, and it didn’t all happen in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the push toward plastic accelerated as more and more businesses shifted their operations to focus on food that customers could take home, or have delivered. Plastic might be the cheapest option in some cases, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for every kind of food. There are lots of alternatives to plastic food containers.


We mentioned the classic Chinese food basket-shaped containers because those remain steadfast players in the takeout game. In fact, those containers, which are also called “oyster pails,” were originally invented for the transportation of oysters way back in the early 20th century, though their meteoric rise in popularity coincided with the end of World War 2 and a resultant boom in take-out food.

While these containers are better than plastic and break down more easily than other materials, they are often treated with chemicals and coated in wax to make them less leaky. They might break down faster in a landfill, but you can’t toss them on your compost heap. 


If you’ve had pizza delivered in the last hundred years, you’ve probably received it in a greasy, oily cardboard box. That particular method of delivering pizzas was patented in the 1960s. The stackable, insulated cardboard containers have become as ubiquitous as their counterparts in Chinese food. If you order any food from a pizza place, you’ll probably get it in one of these boxes. 

The problem? If you’ve ever tried to recycle them, you know that, despite being made of eminently recyclable material, they are often too greasy from the food that was in them to be used again. If you’re lucky, maybe the top half of the box can be recycled, but many recycling centers still won’t take them. They are better for our landfills than plastic, though!

Molded Fiber

This one is special to us because we’ve identified it as the most sustainable method for transporting food and we’ve built our business around molded fiber. This solution is the best for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it’s far better than plastic. 

When you look at what you want your food containers to do, it’s not an exhaustive list: prevent leaks, water-proof, leak-proof, and with snap-tight container closure. As you can see in Zume’s own products, all of these qualities are available in a cost-effective and ethically-manufactured solution. 

Order your own Zume molded fiber containers here, or get in touch with us for a custom item. We do both!

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