In January 2018, non-profit organization Center for Environmental Health (CEH) released a report summarizing its study that looked at the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in “disposable food serviceware.” CEH tested total fluorine content in over 130 products from 39 manufacturers or brands, including “plates, bowls, clamshells and multi-compartment food trays.” Of the tested articles, 58% were found to be fluorinated, which suggested the likely use of PFASs in these products.

CEH summarized that the products “consistently tested as no or low-fluorine” were made of “bamboo, clay-coated paper or paperboard, clear PLA (polylactic acid), paper-lined with PLA, palm leaf, paper with unknown coatings, and uncoated paper.” The products that “consistently tested as fluorinated” were made of “all molded fiber products such as wheat fiber (wheat straw or wheat stalk), ‘blend of plant fibers,’ silver grass (miscanthus), and sugarcane waste (bagasse) including molded recycled paper and PLA-lined molded sugarcane (bagasse).”

Based on these findings, CEH recommended “avoiding molded fiber foodware at this time” and urged manufacturers “to prioritize the removal of PFAS from their products and to ensure that any replacement materials or chemicals are safe for human and environmental health.” Further, CEH also recommended “that purchasers avoid polystyrene (both rigid plastic and foam) foodware.”

Concluding its report, CEH emphasized that “the best choice for environmental and health reasons” would be the reusable foodware, because “even the ‘best’ non-fluorinated disposable foodware creates avoidable waste, depletes natural resources, and raises concerns about other toxic chemicals, the environment, and human health.” However, if disposables cannot be avoided, “purchasers should select non-fluorinated products that will be properly managed at end-of-life, either through composting or recycling.”

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CEH (January 2018). “Avoiding hidden hazards: A purchaser’s guide to safer foodware.(pdf)