top of page

Take-Out: The Stories of Different Disposable Food Containers

Updated: Jul 5

1. The Journey of Styrofoam: A Never-Ending Tale

Heat. And Compression. 

The Styrofoam came to be.

Five hundred year life.

In the heart of a bustling city, a Styrofoam takeout container was born in a factory. Made of a closed-cell - polystyrene, extruded plastic, this insulating, foam, lightweight, formable, moldable, and waterproof material is utilized for thousands of applications. 

But here we follow the humble takeout container. Molded with precision, and shipped across the city, it found its way to a popular restaurant. Ready to serve, the Styrofoam takeout container was the only choice for the customer to transport food to take and eat later at home. The piping-hot meals stay hot ‘til they arrive home. The customer is happy and marvels at its insulating properties, thankful that the food was still warm - as they bin the Styrofoam.

Insulating, Lightweight, and helpful it may be, it now lies discarded; to be collected by a waste management crew and tossed into a garbage truck. The container’s journey continued to a landfill, where it joined countless thousands of other Styrofoam counterparts. Unbeknownst to it, Styrofoam's long-lasting nature meant its tale persisted. Though the “useful life” of this container may be short, it remains the same as it was at the beginning of its long journey; an indelible mark on the environment as bit by bit it falls apart. 

disposable food container ready for pickup
cardboard takeout on a counter

2. The Life of Wax Paper: A Brief Sojourn

Water Repellant.

You Wrap up your food in me. 

I’ll see you again.

In a quaint bakery, sheets of wax paper enveloped delicious sandwiches and pastries. Born from renewable resources, the wax paper exuded a rustic charm. Customers unwrapped their treats, savoring every bite.

But the wax paper's journey was short-lived. After use, it landed in a designated recycling bin, where it awaited its next transformation. Collected by a recycling service, it was processed in a facility that turned it into new paper products or packaging through shredding and blending. The wax paper, having fulfilled its purpose, can be reincarnated in a cycle of renewal, a brief but meaningful sojourn.

3. Compostable Chronicles: A Sustainable Saga

From Recycling

The Beauty of Chemistry

Over and Over.

Crafted from plant-based materials, harvested from a water conscious farm establishment, a compostable takeout container was made from a natural and engineered pairing of materials. As it embarked on a mission to reduce its environmental impact at a local farmer's market, it cradled a vibrant salad and delicious meal for a family at the park. After a satisfying lunch, it landed in a compost bin where its second life begins.

Collected by a specialized composting service, the container joined a heap of organic waste. In the magical realms of chemistry and composting, microorganisms worked their wonders, turning it into nutrient-rich compost. The compost becomes a force for good, providing nourishment and stability to soil, fostering the growth of fresh produce.

With decomposition complete, the compostable takeout containers life is finished in a rebirth from the soil. 

4. Plastic Predicament: A Tale of Persistence

Beads, beads, and more beads.

Melted together, to be

Anything you want

Born in a sprawling plastic factory where beads of plastic filament are melted and blended into all shapes and sizes, a plastic takeout container was designed to serve convenience with every order. It’s lightweight, microwaveable nature made it a preferred choice for many eateries. However, after a single-use encounter, its destiny takes a darker turn.

Discarded in a regular trash bin, it found itself on a journey to a landfill. Here, it faced a prolonged existence, resisting decomposition for decades. Plastic's persistent nature became a symbol of the environmental challenges posed by single-use items, echoing a call for sustainable alternatives. Although plastics have only grown in usage since the end of WWII, the predominance of plastic makes approaching sustainable changes a tough subject. 

Thankfully i didn't waste the food too…. Oh wait…. I gotta go check the fridge…

In these four separate short stories, the disposable food containers – Styrofoam, wax paper, compostable, and plastic – each had a unique journey from creation to waste. Whether this means they are actually disposable or not, is a different story. Their tales reflected the diverse environmental impacts of different materials and the need for mindful choices in our consumption habits.

Thanks for Reading! 

8 views0 comments


bottom of page