Industry News | February 16, 2010

What's in the Box?

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A pair of California companies recently teamed up to create specialized environmentally friendly food packaging for the restaurant industry. The Bottle Box appears to be a standard plastic take-out container, but it’s made from five recycled 16-ounce water bottles.

“Millions of bottles will be used each year to create the boxes,” says Laura Murphy, vice president of marketing and sales for Direct Pack Inc., one of the companies involved in the box’s creation. “Without recycling programs and awareness, we wouldn’t have our product. And the best part is it can be recycled again by the consumer.”

Direct Pack joined with Global PET in Perris, California, to manufacture and market the product, which was introduced to the industry last fall. The box can be produced with company logos as well as in a clear or black finish and is rated to carry food items not exceeding 165 degrees. It’s stackable and seals airtight.

As for the cost, the company estimates take-out packaging bills for a large foodservice operation will rise 2–5 percent after switching to the Bottle Box. That, however, is in contrast to an increase of nearly 20 percent for some paper and corn-based packaging.

“Besides being able to customize the packaging, we also include table tents, decals, and other marketing materials so restaurants can publicize the fact that they’re reaching their sustainability goals,” Murphy says.

Operations that have used the product so far report that it’s met or exceeded their expectations. Picasso’s Cafe, a Pasadena, California, restaurant and catering business, features the Bottle Box while catering corporate events.

“Our corporate customers are very interested in it since they’re working to increase their recycling efforts,” says Picasso’s manager Marissa DeRosa.

Patrons who have used them for take-home containers have also expressed their appreciation, DeRosa says, and the Bottle Boxes have held up well when used to deliver catered boxed meals.

“When we first used them, we didn’t know how they’d hold up,” she says. “Would they slide around when being transported? But they sealed and worked like any other good-quality container.”

The product was also given a thumbs up by the environmental community.

“It’s a very positive step to reuse plastic bottles,” says Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste in Sacramento. “I hope the market for this kind of thing takes off so that more people understand how we can re-use.”

By John Morell