Single-use vs. durables: different uses for different contexts

Cups, plates, knives, forks, spoons, napkins, bags, trays and other kinds of food containers can be made using different materials and production techniques. Single use service packaging and their durable alternatives have entirely different purposes. There is a clear role for both.

The disposable (paper) cup was invented by Doctor Samuel J. Crumbine to protect public health. Protection of food hygiene, consumer safety and public health remains its primary reason for use. Today, many consumers eat and drink on-the-go or in the context of events that bring together many people for a short period of time, such as fairs, festivals and other kinds of events that do not have permanent infrastructure in place. Single use service packaging allows people to do this safely and hygienically. That does not mean to say that single use items should not be collected and recycled, however.

In more permanent and closed environments – in homes, traditional restaurants, office canteens and the likes – durable forms of service packaging make more sense. This is especially true where these environments provide the infrastructure needed for the long-term upkeep of the service packaging in the broad sense of the term. There is certainly scope for more and smarter re-use of durable beverage containers. But it is inappropriate to compare single use service packaging with durable alternatives.


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