Download the factsheet

Helping you make the right choices

Food on the go is now a standard part of city life. But even if you eat in at some food and drink establishments you can find yourself with a single- use plastic fork and knife in your hands. It’s hard to work out exactly how many sets of plastic or disposable cutlery are used every day, but we estimate it to be over 100,000 in Greater Manchester alone!

Plastic single-use cutlery doesn’t tend to get recycled. So, it’s essential for food and drink businesses to shift to more sustainable choices. While there are compostable versions on the market, a lot of them require specialist composting services that are not widely available. Our advice is to follow the principles of the waste hierarchy.

Making the right choices

Always reduce first and go with reusable options where possible. For take-away containers, could you encourage customers to bring their own, like Tupperware. And offer a discount to those who do.

Sustainability rating: Red, amber, green

Green: A great sustainable choice. Good work.

Amber: Doing well but room for improvement. Move towards a green choice.

Red: Not a good choice for the planet. Move to an amber choice. Or even better a green choice.

Your choiceOur ratingThings to consider
We encourage our customers to bring their own reusable take-away food containers and offer a discount to those who do.GreenReducing the amount of singleuse packaging your businesses uses, and helping customers to switch from disposable to reusable, is a really sustainable choice. Keep up the good work.
We sell reusable take-away food containers and offer a discount to customers who use them.GreenCould you rent reusable takeaway containers to your customers on a deposit return scheme? PlasticFreeGM are looking into how we can make reusable schemes easier across the city-region.
We use 100% compostable card and paperboard takeaway food containers.

The packaging must state EN13432 to be recognised as 100% compostable.
AmberThere are no great alternatives when it comes to disposables. There’s still a lot of energy and embedded carbon in constantly producing, delivering, and disposing of single-use items. If you choose compostable items for any of your take-away packaging always check with your waste contractor what can go in your food waste recycling or composting service. Some composting services can’t accept packaging, even if the packaging states it’s 100% compostable. In Greater Manchester, compostable packaging cannot be put in residents’ food and garden bins at home.
We use aluminium foil takeaway food containers with a cardboard lid.AmberFoil is more easily and widely recycled than a lot of other materials. It can go in residents’ recycling bin at home, or a dry mixed recycling service operated for businesses. The cardboard lid is very likely to have a plastic film lining. This means it cannot go in the paper and card recycling in residents’ homes, or in the card and paper recycling service for businesses. It is also not suitable for the compost food waste bin. Unfortunately, the card lid still has to go in general waste.
We use ‘Bagasse’ – sugar cane based 100% compostable takeaway food packaging.AmberA new product made from sugar cane material. The product does have a fairly high carbon footprint but will completely degrade in the open environment. Always check with your waste contractor what can go in your food waste and compost service. As many still can’t take compostable packaging. In Greater Manchester, compostable packaging cannot be put in residents’ food and garden bins at home.
We use cardboard take-away food containers but the packaging does NOT state 100% compostable or EN13432RedIt’s important to pick your product carefully. Take-away containers that are made of card, but don’t meet the standard for compostability (European Standard EN13432) are very likely to have a plastic film lining. This means they cannot be composted and cannot be put in the card and paper recycling. So, they’ll have to go to general waste.
We use mixed material takeaway food containers and packaging. For example, a standard sandwich packet. This is a cardboard container with a plastic film window.RedWhenever a disposable packet or container is made of more than one material, it instantly gets trickier to recycle. For your business or your customers to recycle this packaging, they need to separate the plastic film from the cardboard part. Because these products aren’t made with sustainability in mind. It’s also very likely that the card part will be coated with a plastic film.
We use single-use plastic takeaway food containers. Usually clear or black plastic, sturdy & sometimes labelled as microwave safe. Made of polypropylene (PP), nonexpanded polystyrene (PS), or polyethylene triphosphate (PET)RedPlastic take-away food containers of any sort cannot currently be recycled in residents’ home recycling bins. While some customers do keep sturdier containers to use for storing leftovers, as a business you won’t know whether they are kept and reused or go straight in the bin. Try switching to an amber or green choice soon.
We use expanded polystyrene foam take-away food containers.RedThis is an option to avoid at all costs. If it ends up as litter, polystyrene (like other plastics) degrades over time into smaller and smaller bits called micro-plastics. These get into soil, water systems, wildlife, and our bodies, causing untold harm.

When and how to offer to customers

When it comes to cutlery and other disposables you need to consider how you can reduce the amount of disposable cutlery you are using every day.

Unsustainable behaviour: We give out disposable cutlery with every meal as a matter of course.

Sustainable behaviour: We ask the customer if they need cutlery rather than if they want cutlery. You could even train staff to ask something like, “do you need disposable cutlery with your food, or are you headed back to the office where there might be some reusable cutlery?”.

Unsustainable behaviour: We keep our disposable cutlery on the front of the service counter so customers can help themselves.

Sustainable behaviour: We keep our disposable cutlery behind the service counter, so that customers must ask for cutlery if they need it. This prevents customers from picking up disposable cutlery out of habit, when they don’t really need it.

Tell people you have made a change

If you decide to switch to some of the more sustainable behaviours above, put up a sign or tweet about it. Tell your customers what change you have made and why. This will let your customers know that you are making a positive shift to help the environment in Greater Manchester. Remember to include #PlasticFreeGM and @GMGreenCity in your tweets so we can retweet you.

GM Green City Logo