4 Common Eco Friendly Food Packaging Alternatives to Plastic

4 Common Eco Friendly Food Packaging Alternatives to Plastic

As environmental issues continue to rise as a global issue, the material of food packaging is become more of a common concern. In NY, most plastic food packaging has been banned in favor of eco friendly alternatives. There are many different materials that have been considered “sustainable”, “environmentally friendly”, “biodegradable”, or “eco friendly”. With so many different terms to describe sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging, it can get confusing! So let’s first explore what “eco friendly packaging” means, then a few common types of eco friendly material.


What makes packaging eco friendly?

“Eco friendly packaging” is a broad term that encompasses pretty much any biodegradable natural or compounded product. The term “eco friendly packaging” is so nonspecific that it can refer to a broad range of different types of material. The main context to being eco friendly in this article is that when the packaging is disposed, it will not harm the environment.

Since there is such a broad range of different types of eco friendly material, and the definition is so open ended, we will explore just a few eco friendly material types. 


What are eco friendly food packaging materials?

Below we have listed four different types of eco friendly packaging. These materials are not only the most common, but also considered the most cost effective for sustainable disposables. As an environmentally friendly company, our biggest concerns when picking eco friendly material is sustainability. We have rated each material’s sustainability on a scale of 1-10, along with our explanation why.



What it is: Bagasse comes from sugar cane, the same plant grown and harvested in abundance to provide us with the sugar we eat annually. The sugar cane stem looks similar to the bamboo stem, but it is slightly less taller and much softer. Sugar cane stems hold the cane juice eventually processed into the sugar we think of when we think of sugarcane. After the cane juice is extracted from the stem, the leftover plant waste is compounded into bagasse. That compounded organic plant waste is then transformed into an eco friendly product.

Uses: Bagasse is popular as an eco friendly choice for take out containers. It can also be used as an energy source for fuel, but it's not very common because bagasse pollutes the atmosphere when burned.

Hot and Cold Rating: 8/10. Bagasse can tolerate high and low temperatures fairly well, making it an excellent consideration for take out containers for ice cream or very hot foods.

Sustainability: 8/10. Sugar cane is a highly sustainable plant harvested in abundance for its uses in food. As long as you have tabletop sugar, you will have bagasse. As long as there’s a demand for take out containers, there’s a use for bagasse. Bagasse is also highly biodegradable, breaking down very easily in landfills due to its origins as a plant.

Look & Feel: 7/10. Bagasse has a very natural, papery feel. Bendable but not brittle, bagasse is surprisingly durable. 


Palm Leaf

What it is: Palm leaf is exactly what the name implies--leaves that come from the palm tree. Palm leaves are fallen dehydrated leaves from the Areca palm tree picked up and reused as an eco friendly alternative to plastic. Unlike the other materials, it’s generally not compounded or broken down. It’s simply leaves layered to a desired thickness and shaped with machinery to reach its desired form.

Uses: Palm leaves have thousands of uses, from serving trays to fuel to even fences! Palm leaf matter is very versatile and resourceful.

Hot and Cold Rating: 8/10. Palm leaf plates hold up well with cold desserts or hot meals. We’ve never had a problem eating hot steaks or our hot chocolate syrup desserts (lava cookies are our favorite...yummm). Bon appetit!

Sustainability: 10/10. Because palm leaves are used, no palm leaf trees are harmed in the making of any palm leaf product whatsoever. This means palm leaf is highly renewable, and since it is leaf matter, it is guaranteed to break down regardless of composting.

Look & Feel: Palm leaf products have a unique and soothing texture, an all natural appearance, and are very sturdy when handled.



What it is: If you think of bamboo, you either think of pandas, long stalks, or Asia. True to its reputation, it is a tall plant native to Asia and remarkably eaten by pandas. But did you know it can also be an excellent sustainable source for kitchen ware as well?

Uses: Bamboo, like palm leaves, has a large array of different uses, ranging from practical to pure aesthetics. Aside from eco friendly  packaging, this highly durable plant matter is commonly used in construction projects in place of wood.

Hot and Cold Rating: 10/10. Bamboo is highly versatile and very durable. Bamboo kitchenware can sustain hot and cold temperatures, whether you’re using a bamboo knife to cut an ice cream cake or through a very hot burger.

Sustainability: 10/10. Bamboo roots a new plant immediately after being harvested. In other words, bamboo grows voraciously, meaning it is greatly in abundance. As it is an organic plant, it decomposes easily and interacts with nature without any trouble. 

Look & Feel: Bamboo has the natural signature look and feel of wood, but does not splinter. It has a smooth and grease resistant finish. It is highly sturdy, only bending but not breaking, even when force is applied.  This makes it great for families, especially with young children.



What it is: Wood comes from cutting down various trees and harvesting the material beneath the bark. There are many different types of trees that are cut down to make wood.

Uses: Aside from kitchenware, wood is used for so many different purposes, including paper to construction.

Hot and Cold Rating: 6/10. Although wood does generally maintain good form with most hot and cold meals, it is susceptible to moisture. When weakened by moisture, it can brindle, splinter, or break down.

Sustainability: 3/10. As wood is a popular material for so many different products, its demand as a resource is high. Being that it is organic, it does break down easily, however.

Look & Feel: Wood has a distinctly natural and eco friendly look and feels like paper. It can be rough to handle, however, and may splinter to handling. 


These are just a few types of the common eco friendly materials environmentally friendly businesses and consumers have been buying. Out of them all, there really is no “most eco friendly food packaging” material, they are all fairly sustainable. The best part about the sustainability movement is that it is only growing as we discover more. So if these materials don’t suit you, there are many other eco friendly packaging materials to choose from. 


As an eco friendly American based supplier with superior customer service and experience in catering, SmartPack USA hopes you join the mission to use disposable kitchenware that is eco friendly. Our customer service team is eager to help you get started. Let us supply you with cost effective, biodegradable kitchenware!