Role of compostable tableware in food service and waste management. A life cycle assessment study.

Research paper by Maurizio M Fieschi, Ugo U Pretato

Indexed on: 05 Dec '17Published on: 05 Dec '17Published in: Waste Management


It is estimated that in Europe 88-100 million tonnes of food waste are generated every year, with a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of around 227 MT of CO2 equivalents generated for their collection and disposal. A 12% of this waste is estimated to arise from food service within the hospitality sector, which includes quick service restaurants, casual and fine dining, contract catering (canteens, prisons, hospitals, schools etc.) as well as indoor and outdoor events and exhibitions. Given this considerable amount and that the mixed unsorted collection is often the only practicable way to handle such waste flows, the choice of tableware and cutlery can make a big difference in facilitating waste collection as well as in reducing the overall environmental impact of food waste management. This study compares the environmental performance of using biodegradable & compostable single use tableware with organic recycling of food waste through composting against a traditional scenario using fossil-based plastic tableware and disposal of the waste flows through incineration and landfill. The study has taken into account the main requirements of the recently published Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) methodology of the European Commission. The results confirm that the use of biodegradable and compostable tableware combined with organic recycling is the preferred option for catering in quick service restaurants, contract catering and events, since it reduces significantly the carbon, water and resource footprint and is fully in line with the principles of a circular economy.