The Lowdown on Takeout Containers
When it comes time to order some takeout, obviously, the greenest option is to bring your own containers...but, let's face it, that's not always realistic, especially if you order delivery or aren't planning ahead.
So, what are the most common types of takeout containers and how can you dispose of them?
The worst is Styrofoam. It baffles me that some places still use it, since it's both environmentally unfriendly and dangerous. But if you get some food that comes in Styrofoam, don't throw it in the trash. It can sometimes be recycled, but you'll have to take it to a recycling center. Visit http://earth911.com/ to find a recycling center that takes Styrofoam.
The most common is plastic containers. They're better than Styrofoam, but they're still pretty bad. If you get takeout from these types of containers, don't microwave the food, as chemicals can get into your food. As far as recycling these containers, not all municipalities will take this type of plastic, so check with your city.
Another common one is cardboard boxes, such as Chinese takeout containers or pizza boxes. Unfortunately, once these are soiled with food or grease, they become unrecyclable. The best option to dispose of these is to rip of any unsoiled portion of the box and recycle that part. As for the soiled portion, you can rip it up and compost it.
The two best options are aluminum foil and bio-products. Foil can be washed and reused more than once, and most cities will usually be able to recycle it.
Bio-products are made from items like corn. They CAN be composted, but in August I blogged about a corn cup that I've had in my compost heap for almost a year and it hasn't broken down yet. At least if you have to throw one of these cups out in the trash, it will break down, unlike plastic or Styrofoam.
Your takeout food will usually come in a plastic or paper bag (or yikes...BOTH!) and both of those are also environmentally unfriendly. You can recycle or compost your paper bag (or reuse it) and you can also find recycling centers that will accept plastic bags.
Meanwhile, urge your favorite takeout joints to become a little more green by doing away with Styrofoam, and maybe eventually plastic and some of the other less green options.