The New Food Economy tested compostable fiber bowls from 14 locations in 8 New York City restaurants, including multiple Chipotle’s, Dig and Sweetgreen locations. All of the samples tested contained high amounts of fluorine, which experts say indicates the presence of PFAS compounds.
PFAS and PFAS like substances are easily recognized by their trade name Teflon. These compounds allow products otherwise destroyed by wet, damp or greasy food, to hold together. PFAS chemicals are hydrophobic, repelling liquids, keeping them inside rather than soaking through the treated containers.
Numerous cities and states are requiring restaurants and businesses to use compostable utensils and containers, in lieu of non-recyclable Styrofoam or plastic containers. Concerning to researches, PFAS and PFAS like chemicals is bio-persistant, they do not breakdown, and instead bio-accumulate. Higher concentrations of the chemicals have been linked to various cancers, colitis, thyroid and kidney disease and more.
New Food Economy editor Joe Fassler writes “PFAS are colloquially called “forever chemicals” for a reason. You might only handle your salad bowl for five minutes, but the chemicals inside it, as far as we know, will stick around for countless generations.”
More troubling is the frequency with which consumers are unknowingly being exposed to PFAS containing chemicals outside of restaurant. Wax paper, sandwich wrappers and more used by mom and pop grocery stores to big names like Whole Foods, who has pledged to remove the chemicals after it was revealed to have used them in packaging.
As these chemicals are “biodegraded” and stuffed into landfills what is happening to our soil, rivers and streams from runoff? The bio-persistence and dangerous effects warrant a better solution to packaging instead of doing what’s trendy and feels good.