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are styrofoam and/or plastic take out containers a deal breaker for chowhounders?

just like the title says, i was curious as to how many chowhounders consider this when they are eating take out food. does it even register when u are handed these frowned upon containers? i myself am guilty of not even registering any thoughts when i have bought take out.

i have been reading up a little bit and am now more aware of what places are actually using. just curious as to what others think on the subject especially what actions you have taken as far as places that blatantly use styrofoam containers if any.

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  1. I very rarely get takeout, but there is a bakery that makes wonderful pastries. Last time I bought two they started to put them in a big styrofoam clamshell. I stopped them and said a paper bag would be fine. However, we can now recycle styrofoam along with glass, plastic etc so not as big a concern as it used to be.

    1. I was looking at a highly rated restaurant's pictures on Yelp, saw they serve everything on Styrofoam (not just take out.) I won't be eating there.

      1. I ordered a salad the other day at a new-to-me place. Mixed greens with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. It came to my table --just out side of the establishment's doors on a nice patio with an umbrella-table.--in a styrofoam clamshell. I won't be going back. I may be bothered by the "un-ecofriendliness" (is that even a word?) but what really got to me is the aesthetics. The plastic fork digging into the plastic styro-i-ness is just icky icky icky. Bummer that they ruined what ~could~ have been a nice salad.

        1 Reply
        1. re: pedalfaster

          "oh this looks nice but do you have plates, real plates?"

        2. interesting replies so far. how about the plastic issue. is this a problem? would it be preferable to for take out joints to use the PLA plant based plastic. i read that these are biodegradable but how can you tell which it is? it all looks like plastic to me.

          1 Reply
          1. re: justanotherdoan

            One of our local ice cream places tried those plant-based "plastic" spoons. For some reason it game me a nasty rash(around the mouth area). Ick again and just something to think about. Sorry I don't have any good answers!

          2. Are you concerned about recycling or about possible chemical hazards in your food? Around here, I see recycling logos on most plastic containers but styrofoam is not accepted by our recycling companies. So I prefer plastic, and that's what most places use. I only see waxed cardboard for Chinese take-out, and even that is in decline, being replaced by less-leakprone
            plastic. I have started taking my own Rubbermaid containers when I go for takeout or to a restaurant in expectation of leftover food. In the former case, using one's own containers means you are not able to call the order in ahead of time.

            1 Reply
            1. re: greygarious

              i am more concern about the recycling. just trying to do my part since i do eat alot of take out. it did started bothering me a bit especially since i eat alot of chinese food. seeing all these stryofoam containers. not sure what i can do about it though since like i said almost 80% or more of my meals are eating out. of those more than half is take out.

            2. I definitely prefer plastic to styrofoam and happily reuse the plastic containers from our favorite Thai place. I don't like styrofoam, but will take it if that's all they have to put my leftovers in. I will not waste good food!

                1. I reuse take-out containers as many times as is feasible before recycling them, so "no" they're not deal-breakers for me.

                  1. Not a problem to me. Whether it's a take out order or a doggie bag box, I am more concerned with it getting home without leaking all over seat/carpet of my truck. If it is take out, I want it to stay hot until I get home.

                    When I traveled for work I often took take out back to the motel room to eat. The only problem with Styrofoam was the fork going thru the bottom of it and leaking dinner contents (juices, salad dressing, etc.).

                    There's not much a place could use that is recyclable. And unless they start charging for take out/doggie boxes they are going with the most economical choice. Even those Chinese take out boxes are not recyclable as they are plastic coated, and that is not recyclable paper in my county.

                    The only reusable containers I have gotten are the soup containers from the Chinese take out. I've got a ton of them.

                    1. Are any takeout containers recyclable? My company doesn't even want soiled paper.

                      If you really are concerned about recycling you should eat at home or in a restaurant that recycles all of its wash water ....

                      Or how about a restaurant that lets you provide your own containers? I believe that was the norm in some less-industrialized countries. Let's face it, takeout with disposable containers is only possible because those containers are cheap - the store can afford to give them to you, along with paper napkins.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: paulj

                        I do not personally factor in the container as a deal breaker for food (to do so, I would have to give up eating at many places that serve fine food). But I admit I do like the plastic containers more. First they are a lot more tightly sealed (important when you have a tendency to pick up takeout as you walk, put it in a carrying bag and not eat it till later, or you need to bring lefovers home. Second those takeout containers, by being re-used have basically removed all need for my to buy storage containers of any sort. My re used containers serve all needs (plus, if you have extras, they make great little incubators for getting early spring garden seeds started) you just have to remember to keep a system going of numbering the tops and bottoms (so that you can re-match them when you need too).
                        About the closest I can think of to actually factoring in the container was as follows. There are/were two resturaunt in Chiantown I used to go to frequently and often got soup at. These two used a different modle of quart soup contatiner than the one used by most other places (they were wider and shorter). My mom made me promise that, whenever I got soup at either of them, I had to bring the container back, as she found it was the perfect size for storing hard boiled eggs.

                        1. re: paulj

                          Depends on the type of container and the recycling company: some will take paper with food residue, some don't (mine is the latter). I've occasionally gotten plastic containers, which can be washed and reused or recycled.

                          Some cities in my area ban styrofoam for food containers, so places usually go with paper, which at least has a chance of decomposing in a landfill. I don't consider the type of container a deal breaker

                        2. This is not an environmental consideration for me, at all.

                          I cannot stand styrofoam or plastic containers for takeout salad or sandwiches or anything else.
                          If I find them doing it I intervene and ask them to please either use a paper bag or cardboard or something else that doesn't partially wilt or steam the contents.
                          Recently I was ordering a takeout panini from LaBrea bakery and the fact that they placed it in an open cardboard box (with the lid kept open) will keep me coming back. They pay attention to the final product and how it should be transported. Smart.

                          1. I abhor styrofoam in all forms, but sometimes it cannot be avoided. I hate takeout or doggie bags that use them and will transfer the food into another container when I get home.

                            I love plastic containers that can be reused. I have a ton of them and at Thanksgiving when I'm sending leftovers home with others they are great because I don't have to give them my good containers.

                            1. The deal breaker for me is when they stack the containers one on top of another so that the combined weight crushes the one on the bottom causing it to leak all over.

                              1. I don't get actual restaurant take-out very often. However, at my cafeteria they provide Styrofoam containers for to-go requests. I quickly decided to ask if they'd mind me bringing my own re-useable containers to put thing in, rather than the Styrofoam and they were okay with this, thankfully. Had they said no I probably would have stopped taking food out, period, despite the inconvenience. For the amount of days per week I want to grab something and run those containers would add up fast.

                                It's not a 100% dealbreaker for me, but it is situational. I'd certainly prefer if places gave more recyclable container or ones that can be repurposed. I usually try to get around packaging like that by asking if I can carry the item out (w/o the package) or saying no to extra packing (ie plastic bags) when I can carry the item(s) well enough without.

                                1. I dislike styrofoam especially when they staple the container shut. Someday I may bite into a staple with my chow fun.
                                  Reusable plastic is ok. "Bachelor Tupperware." We use it a lot when we take home made lunch to work. Recycle it when it wears out.

                                  1. Couldn't care less. Environmental concerns do not factor in anything I do, least of all making a difference in my consumption choices.

                                    2 Replies
                                      1. re: MonMauler

                                        Sad indeed..what if everyone had that outlook?

                                      2. We can recycle styrofoam where I live and plastics can go to my sister's house (different region). I don't get takeout in it very often, but don't mind styrofoam when I do. Keeps food warm a lot longer than plastic.

                                        1. no, doesn't bother me. I'm just thankful to be able to take it home-either take out or doggy bag.
                                          small appetite plus when I'm satisfied I stop eating. I don't eat till it's gone or I'm full.

                                          1. no,but we transfer to plate or another container as fast as we can

                                            so fragile,leaky etc if stacked to tall,too many in a bag or thumb hole in juicy trench when in a hurry off loading

                                            1. Doesn't bother me, since I can't fix the problem. We always recycle voluntarily, and that is the most I can do to help. I try not to worry about things I can't change. And we also put it on real dishes when it is served at home. Life is too short.

                                              1. It doesn't stop me, but I notice and like it when I come across a place that is using recyclable/eco-friendly takeout packaging. Nowhere where I live is styro recyclable and very few plastics are as well.

                                                1. Not a deal-breaker; have to laugh sometimes because all I want is a square of foil for a bit of steak so I can stick it in my purse for later gnawing and waitstaff always want to give me the full box. Takes a bit of negotiation. :)

                                                  1. Many of these are recyclable so in many ashes I prefer them to the non recyclable options.

                                                    1. It irks me that someone might frown on whatever I do. "Go frown in your own mirror" I say!

                                                      I am sincerely sick of the unbadged police running around trying to making life miserable.

                                                      I do what makes sense. If the place offers only styrofoam as take out I am not going to issue lecture number 27 to them about it. I will not picket them. I will not rail against them on Yelp.

                                                      I think my line of disgust is when I see Marlin on the menu.

                                                      Plastic bags at the grocery forever! I use them again and they don't have to be washed with soap and water after each use. AND I don't have to cop a smug look on my face like I am saving the planet one canvas bag at a time while having my groceries bagged. FAtooEY!

                                                      Now. Who swiped the steps I use to get down from my piss on PC soapbox?

                                                      2 Replies
                                                        1. I wish it made a difference to me, but since no one seems to have created a viable option I have to go with styrofoam or plastic, and most places here use styrofoam. One place tried using some sort of treated cardboard, it was fine for about 4 hours. Thats not long enough to keep leftovers. Im not even sure it was actually more recyclable unless we are looking at the 10,000 year cycle. But since virtually none of the trash here is recycled it really doesn't matter. It all ends up in the dump and will stay there untill the archeologists from a distant galaxy come along to study our culture.

                                                          1. Prefer paper, but plastic is not a deal breaker because it can be reused or recycled, though not happy to be using a non-renewable resource. Styrofoam for food take-out containers is outlawed where I live.

                                                            1. It's a deal breaker for my husband. He stopped getting coffee at two places when they switched to styrofoam cups.

                                                              While I prefer my take out coffee in traditional paper cup if the place doesn't have them and I don't have my travel mug) it doesn't stop me from ordering.

                                                              None of our true take out places uses styrofoam. Most use chinese-style take out boxes or the heavy duty plastic ones that are dishwasher safe.

                                                              For "doggie bags" I don't think any of the places we eat at use styrofoam. Most have the white coated cardboard boxes or the same plastic ones noted above. But if they did I don't think it would make leave behind a good piece of steak or any other yummy leftovers.

                                                              I work with a woman who is working on creating zero waste. She brings mason jars, lidded pyrex etc to the grocery stores for her deli meats, cheeses, bulk cereals, grains etc. On the rare times we do go out to eat she bring her own container for leftovers. She even bring her own containers to the salad bar at the local speciality grocer. By now they know her so she rarely has weigh her containers anymore.

                                                              1. For me, it's not the ecological concern, but more of practicality. There's a place where I occasionally call in a meatball sandwich order (minus the bread, +extra sauce) and unless I specify, they put it in a styro clamshell in a paper bag -- a major mess waiting to happen. One time, I didn't even make it out of the store before the leakage started. Now, I specify that they put it in one of those black-and-clear plastic salad containers, which snaps closed securely. Sometimes they forget and try to hand it to me in the styro, and I make them repackage it. Don't want my car reeking of marinara for the next week.

                                                                1. Never crosses my mind. I'm just not wired that way. I guess I should care, but I'll be honest and admit I don't. I guess I'm destined for a hell in which I'm forever drowning in a sea of plastic and styrofoam.

                                                                  1. not exactly a 'deal-breaker' but the stryo clamshells just. don't. work.

                                                                    they leak, break and don't easily recycle. even chucked into ziploc bags would be better.

                                                                    I don't want takeout 'plated' in a sloppy clamshell. I have asked for the deconstructed packaging and got looks of confusion. I LIKE the waxed paper cartons from old school Chinese places. I'm taking it home or to the office, I'm not sitting in the car.

                                                                    1. I prefer plastic if it's not something that can be contained in paper (like a baguette) because I can rinse and reuse plastic boxes, either to bring my own lunches from home or for for storage. I find styrofoam messy, smelly and, if you don't eat hot food straight away, adds a strange aftertaste to the food. You can't reuse it for anything and it's not always recycleable, especially if it's not clean.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. When I'm in China, I get anxious whenever I get take-out. Talk about flimsy everything...does it affect the taste? When I've had sesame noodles in plastic bags, I didn't notice much of a difference. But it depends how hot the dish is. That's when you should start thinking about where the nearest chemist is...

                                                                        Also, the massive bottles of water in Cambodia, something foul is afoot. But I can't exactly turn the tap on and expect potable water either, so in that case, it's not a deal-breaker.


                                                                        1. I don't particularly LIKE those styrofoam containers - I've found they rarely stay closed properly, which makes them leak!, and I'd never buy styrofoam plates etc for my own use... but I don't eat enough takeout for it to be worth making a fuss about.

                                                                            1. I'd prefer a cardboard or recyclable plastic container, and frequently get one or the other. No, food won't keep in cardboard (unless it's pastry or pizza), but I've got plenty of food-saving vessels at home. However, until we stop going to Asian restaurants we can't make any rule against styrofoam, because that's what the leftovers go home in and there are ALWAYS leftovers.

                                                                              1. Considering the Mexican and bbq holes in the wall I eat at, it's not even an issue for me.

                                                                                1. It is to me..there are a large amount of bio containers out there as well as potato and corn starch utensils.
                                                                                  You often do not know until it is in front of you..but I always voice my displeasure with mgmnt if they use foam and plastic.

                                                                                  1. No, but I prefer porcelain, instead. That, or maybe silver.