Packaging: Is There a Sustainable Way?

Questioning Our Conveniences

Conveniences are an absolute part of our existence. In this day and age, many of us find ourselves running around--a lot. Having quick solutions for simple necessities like food, water, and coffee are aspects to our modern day realities. Overtime, however, we’ve seen our healths take a turn for the sake of convenience, but that’s why Mission Heirloom exists--to blend healthy, delicious, and convenient.

As a society, our eating habits continue to evolve; meals used to be predominantly home-cooked, gradually incorporating casual dining out, then take-out became simple, now we’re looking at the rise of food delivery startups. Business has continued to meet the demands of convenience; food can be taken to go, without a line or without leaving your house. As a result, a growing demand for take away boxes, cups, lids, items used to enclose your food exists. Convenience has become so pervasive, it’s ignored. The shape the convenience has taken really just means more plastic.

So we’re at a point where the benefits of convenience has broken a tipping point. It has lost it’s value--the packaging that convenience is wrapped in has caused us to get sick and is poisoning the environment by way of toxic take away containers and corrosive waxy, plastic-lined cups. But what do we do about it?

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Mission Heirloom's Best Case Scanario – For Now.

Mission Heirloom has faced a dilemma when it comes to packaging.  As a casual restaurant, we seek to meet the desires of our customers, and that often results in a take-out coffee container, a leftovers box, or take away silverware. We want people to take their delicious meals with them and we want to be able to provide for their requests, but we have asked ourselves, how can we do that sustainable? Like all of our ingredients and product we sell, we have scrutinized the materials used in take-away containers. We don’t want to take any chance that chemicals can leach into your carefully prepared food.

We have searched for a healthy and sustainable option to provide guests with nontoxic packaging. While we package our made-to-go meals in glass, we knew that couldn’t be a feasible options for all of our cafe meals. So we searched for a company exhibiting care and awareness to human welfare and our delicate ecosystem. We found VegWare, a business dedicated to just this purpose: finding sustainable alternatives to plastic to-go items. They are a leading company that seeks to bring more ecological options to an unhealthy, but thriving, toxic market.

We order takeout containers made with bagasse, or recycled sugarcane. This sugar alternative uses 99% less carbon than polystyrene and paper! Bagasse containers are a natural material that we know is safe for storing your food. In addition, the coffee cups are made with plant-based Polylactic acid (PLA) and hot lids are made of CPLA - a high heat plant-based PLA. These cups require 72% less carbon than plastic and the lids require 62%. We have you covered for your cutlery, too, if you are in a rush. We order recycled high heat PLA for our forks, knives, and spoons -- all of which are completely compostable. PLA materials are a biodegradable thermoplastic polyester created with typically starchy materials or sugar.


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Conventional packaging material requires knowledge of the plastic numbers #1-7, with each number posing risk to a variety of leaching unhealthy and carcinogenic materials into your beverage or drink. Sadly, most take-out items still use low density polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyethylene terephthalate, and tear down old trees for the existence of single-use item.

The best solution we have found today revolves around compostable take-out items that are not made with chemicals and plastic to leach into your food. 

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When you need your coffee in a rush, expect that our cups are always compostable, free of a plastic lining or or wax coating.

The best recommendation we can give you is to bring your own thermos and favorite glass tupperware to your dining spot or coffee shop. Using materials that you feel confident touching your food is the best way to navigate the packaging takeout dilemma. Not only is glass and steel (Klean Kanteens and such) great materials for food, these are made to be reusable items. We need to work towards a society that decreases demand of resources and move towards a more sustainable future.

Broader Implications of Recycled Plastic

Thinking about human welfare, if it’s bad for us, it’s bad for the environment and vis versa Mission Heirloom is dedicated to sustainable practices in every scale of our operation, but when it comes to the possibility of toxins, we want to call for awareness to human welfare in addition to the environment.  At the minimum, we use reusable, recyclable, and compostable containers made alternative plant-based materials or glass. However, we must call attention to what recycled plastic does to our health. While it’s more sustainable than using all the resources to exclusively make more plastic, each time plastic is heated to be reshaped, additional health risks accrue.

We don’t think one issue can stand over the other; whether, we must keep pushing the boundaries of innovation to seek new and alternative means to the options we have available. In recycled plastic is harmful to our bodies, plastic in general is awful for the ecosystem and our health, what is the alternatives? We think burgasse is a great start, but we cannot risk hurting the land with monocropping sugar. This is why we must stay active in healing convenience, to make convenient exist without as much dangers.


Broader Implications of Recycled Plastic

The reason why we’re so passionate and interested in containers. First, they’re everywhere and secondly, they are so many brands that use cheap plastics and chemical-coats that are capable of leaching into your food. This is some serious stuff! This is also something that both businesses and individuals can change by conscious consumerism and providing healthy food and packaging.

Take a look at this short documentary about the contents of Australia’s landfills.

This is astounding! Australians are known for their love of flat-white and other coffee drinks, but sadly their landfills reflect it. They use 1.3 million takeaway cups each day! Not bringing their own thermos’ is posing risk to their health and a serious crisis to the sensitive ecological welfare.

Complacency with the current plastic and glass recycling program results in a lack of innovation. Restaurants have purchasing power as the largest source of to-go containers. They can be a driving force for change if they demand a change in materials and processing of goods. It’s important to drive demand for restaurants to change, and it’s important for restaurants to break the current unhealthy trends in the food industry.