The other night I ordered food from one of our favorite local Thai restaurants. When I called to place the order, I first asked what kind of containers they used: paper or plastic? (Styrofoam foodware was banned in San Francisco last year.)
I had resolved to myself that I wouldn’t place the order if plastic was used (I know that cardboard to-go containers aren’t perfect, but at least we can compost them). “Paper,” the order-taker answered. Great!
I was pretty disappointed, then, when the food arrived in a #5 plastic tub, two #6 plastic clamshell containers, and only one cardboard box (for the rice).
Now, the #5 tub is at least recyclable (though plastics recycling has problems of its own), but the #6 polystyrene clamshells are not. They’re also best avoided for health reasons. According to National Geographic’s Green Guide, styrene can leach from such containers into food. “Styrene, considered a possible human carcinogen by [the International Agency for Research on Cancer], may also disrupt hormones or affect reproduction,” it states.
And that’s not even getting into the issue of the environmental ills associated with its production and disposal.
In researching this further, I learned that my beloved Thai restaurant’s use of the #6 clamshells could actually be illegal. San Francisco’s law banning Styrofoam food containers also requires vendors to use compostable or recyclable to-go containers “unless there is no suitable product that is within 15% of the cost of non-compostable or non-recyclable alternatives.”
So, as soon as I finish this post, I’m going to write a letter to the restaurant detailing all my concerns. I’ll include a copy of San Francisco’s list of compostable foodware distributors and encourage them to make the switch from plastic to paper. Until they do, I’ll either dine in or get my veggie Panang curry elsewhere.