Single-Use Food-Delivery Packaging: What is the Real Cost of Convenience?

Like so many people these days, I love the convenience of having meal kits and groceries delivered to my home. But when a trash heap filled with cardboard boxes, gel packs and insulation began to accumulate in my garage, I started thinking about how many food deliveries are made during any given week in America. And it scared me.


It also opened my eyes to the environmental cost and impact of the ever-expanding food-delivery industry. Hello Fresh, the largest meal-kit delivery company in the U.S., delivered 63 million meal kits in the second quarter of 2020. That’s one company in one quarter.


The meal-kit delivery service market is expected to reach nearly $20 billion by 2027, a compound growth rate of nearly 13%, according to Grand View Research. It makes me feel guilty thinking about how much cardboard and plastic packaging waste will be produced as this sector continues to grow.


Recycling isn’t enough, and it isn’t the answer

Many well-meaning grocery and meal-kit delivery companies tout their eco-friendliness by saying they use recyclable materials. That’s nice, but only a fraction of recyclable materials ever actually get recycled. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the total amount of municipal solid waste — various items consumers throw away after they are used — in the United States in 2018 was 292.4 million tons. Of that, approximately 69 million tons were recycled.


I did the math: Less than a quarter of the trash we produce is being recycled. The vast majority of single-use packaging materials wind up in a landfill: Supply Chain Solutions Center reports that 91% of packaging waste is sent to landfills or is in the environment. The environmental cost of that amount of waste is staggering.


The truth about choices

I knew there had to be a better way. Why do consumers even have to make a choice between convenience and the planet?

The truth? We don’t. Fully reusable packaging materials, such as PackIt Fresh Freezable Grocery Delivery Totes, let us have both. The totes are reusable, freezable and efficient containers for transporting perishable food. They offer an easy, cost-efficient alternative to single-use packaging, and a simple yet super-cool way to keep food cold and fresh during final-mile deliveries. Quite simply, they lower the true cost of convenience for consumers.


Even HelloFresh is hopping on the reusability train in their sustainability efforts; they are testing out a reusable HelloFresh box in the Netherlands and Australia. The box is not recycled; it is picked up by their delivery service and used again for another shipment. Kudos to them! I hope others will follow their lead.


If packaging materials can be reused, they won’t have a negative impact on the planet. It’s food-delivery companies that need to make a choice to give their customers what they want — the convenience they crave and a safer planet — without a side dish of guilt.

Melissa Kieling, CEO