Demystifying The World of Sustainable Food Packaging

Demystifying The World of Sustainable Food Packaging

Compared to decades prior, sustainability is virtually on everyone’s mind right now. This comes as no surprise as climate change and global warming are increasingly taking a toll on people’s way of life in various ways, often disastrously so. Hence, from individuals to government entities, many are doing their part to lessen their impact on the environment.

Of course, businesses are no exception to this collective effort. While the retail sector arguably holds the biggest potential to contribute to sustainability, other industries also have a role to play. For instance, F&B businesses can cut down on their waste by switching to eco-friendly packaging. While this approach is simple enough yet brings significant environmental benefits, it can be daunting to choose from the many types of sustainable food packaging materials. Which one actually provides the greatest environmental benefit? Is one more sustainable than the others?

To answer these common questions, let us first go over the four types of sustainable food packaging:

  • Recyclable
  • Reusable
  • Biodegradable
  • Compostable 

For most people, these three may all mean the same thing. In reality, there are some key differences between them, each with its advantages and overall impact on the environment. 

Recyclable Food Packaging 

As you may already know, recyclables are any product that can be reused to create new products. Reprocessing recyclable items for their raw materials prevents them from turning into waste, exacerbating today’s bleak pollution problem by ending up in another landfill or getting incinerated and producing toxic chemical pollutants. Metals and glass items are the prime candidates for recycling, but when it comes to plastics, they can generally be recycled just once or twice. Reprocessing recyclable food packaging can be tricky, so great care must be observed lest it contaminate recyclable waste.

Reusable Food Packaging

Reusable packaging involves a system of packaging materials that are built to last and designed for multiple uses instead of being discarded after a single use. These types of food packaging are typically made from robust materials such as metal, glass, and even composite materials built on the principle of durability and longevity. 

A popular example of reusable food packaging is undoubtedly glass milk bottles, which have made a comeback as a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic milk cartons. Refillable kegs for draft beer and other beverages also count as reusable packaging as they can be indefinitely cleaned and refilled compared to traditional tin cans. Unlike recyclables, reusable packaging positions F&B businesses to significantly reduce waste generation and promote a more circular economy.

Compostable Food Packaging

Compostable packaging is containers made from organic materials, such as plants and other naturally renewable resources, which means they are free from any hazardous chemicals typically associated with manufacturing more conventional food packaging materials.

Prime examples of this type of packaging include bagasse and Kraft paper, two eco-friendly materials with many of the same qualities as Singapore plastic food packaging but without its environmental drawbacks. After serving its purpose, compostable food packaging can easily be disposed of at home via a compost bin or used directly for one’s garden.  

As a product made from organic materials, compostable food packaging boasts a twofold advantage: it disintegrates quickly (decomposing in as little as six to twelve weeks under the right conditions) and enhances soil quality. 

Biodegradable Food Packaging 

What is the difference between biodegradable and compostable packaging

Biodegradable food packaging works similarly to compostables in that they also break down naturally over time, with the only main difference being that their decomposition process takes longer—usually around several months—depending on its raw materials.

While many biodegradable packaging options are now available, such as the ever-popular paper takeaway box, it is important to note that biodegradable plastics are just like conventional plastic in that they are petroleum-based and take a long while to break down. As such, it is recommended to opt for bioplastics instead when opting for biodegradable plastics since they are made from plant-based materials and will not break down into harmful chemicals no matter how they’re disposed of.


The abundance of environmentally friendly packaging options today can make the task of improving one’s sustainability efforts puzzling for many F&B businesses. Hopefully, the contents above prove useful in helping you navigate and choose which type of sustainable packaging is best suited for your particular menu and food products.

If your restaurant could use a major boost to its brand reputation, Supply Smiths offers a wide range of sustainable food packaging that lets you achieve just that. As the leading supplier of food storage and packaging in Singapore, you can always rely on us as your source for high-quality and cost-effective solutions that meet your restaurant’s takeaway needs.

For more information, do not hesitate to get in touch with us today!