The Down-low on To-Go

As more people resort to having meals carry-out/to-go/takeaway and delivered, please take time to consider your options for end-of-life. Are the containers recyclable or compostable? Are they reusable or returnable? Will you be able to re-home freezer bags or ice packs?

Mueller area restaurants seem to be on the right page with take-out containers. I polled neighbors and received the responses included below. If you don’t live in Austin, review the examples below for ideas and how to research similar food providers in your area.

Don’t forget that compostable items will ideally say compostable. “BPI Certified Compostable” is preferred as certification means the item is proven to decompose in a commercial composting facility like the one contracted by the City of Austin, Organics by Gosh.

Bao’d Up, is a “casual cafe serving a variety of Bao, Taiwanese burgers, smoothies & build-your-own bubble teas” according to Google. According to the Carr family pictured here (Rachel taking the photo) their materials are recyclable or compostable, delicious for kiddos and they have a locker system that is disinfected in between pickups which means you don’t need to touch a single person for your pickup order (and hand sanitizer by the door).

L’oca d’Oro is using chipboard, which should be compostable.

Cenote is using chipboard, which should be compostable.

Regarding chipboard, it cannot be recycled if it is washed. Any paper product that touched food needs to go in the compost cart if it’s technically compostable. This is why it’s important for manufacturers to label their products “compostable” and for businesses to look for that label, and ideally “BPI Certified Compostable.” If the paper is lined/coated in plastic it needs to go in the trash. Only clean paper having never touched food may go in the recycling.

2 Dine 4 Fine Catering according to Gina Greenspan Manlove has all recyclable items. Gina, “actually rinses and reuses the flat containers because they are a great size.” The paper bag can be recycled, unless it has food residue and then it should be composted. The zippered bag is recyclable in plastic bag/film recycling at a store drop-off center or the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center (once it opens again), but only if one can get all the food grease off. If you see food residue even after rinsing, put the zippered bag in the trash.

Paco’s Tacos is using aluminum foil wrapped tacos in a paper bag. If all the cheese can be scrapped off, with all the other food, the clean aluminum foil can be balled up into 2 inch or larger foil balls and put in the curbside recycling carts. If you can’t get the food off, trash the foil. The paper bag can be recycled, or if it has food/grease on it composted.

Quoting a neighbor, “Snooze was almost 100% compostable (Ecoproducts brand for everything but they did have some foil for some of the messier items). The order came with disposable utensils, although I didn’t open them and they might be compostable. I’d requested they not include those.” This is a great opportunity to remind you (and businesses) that plastic utensils are not recyclable in the City of Austin curbside carts, they fall through the sorting machines and go into the trash. Plastic utensils can be recycled at the Hard Plastics station at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center (once it opens again), or a TerraCycle box you could order.

Regarding single-use utensil sets, you would have to read the utensils to see if they were compostable. If they don’t say compostable they’re theoretically plastic. Even better is what Julia did here refusing the utensils! If you do accidentally receive utensils (you forgot, they don’t have the option to refuse, or they forgot), or you are cleaning out your house keep in mind charities that can use the packets. In Mueller, one of our neighbors will be collecting utensil packets for Mobile Loaves & Fishes, which run food trucks that feed the homeless. So please consider saving these for the future for a similar program in your area.

Styrofoam food containers, including to-go, can be recycled at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center (once it opens again). If you have space, please store these for the future. These do not go in the blue recycling carts.

If you receive cold or frozen food in one of these, they are not recyclable, and I have yet to find anyone that will reuse them. If you know of anyone please let me know. They may be good for padding plate-ware and other breakables during a move.

Save freezer packs/ice packs for school lunches, injuries, etc. Sometimes animal shelters and vets can use these, but not in a steady enough supply to list anyone. If you think of someone close to you who may benefit, call ahead before going over.

Meal delivery insulation will be addressed in a separate article which will be linked in this section once it’s been completed and published.

What other questions or examples do you feel could be addressed here?

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