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The most common sustainable solution for soup takeaway (to-go) containers are those compostable cup and lid sets - made from plant-based plastic (PLA) lid and a paper/PLA cup.

These are basically non-plastic versions of traditional soup cups, and can be composted in a municipal composting facility.

Since not every city has composting facilities, and consumers are not great at separating these lids from plastic lids, what is a better solution to this?

Is there a way to serve to-go soup/coffee without the plastic lid, or without the plastic lining on the paper cups?

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Rather than focus on alternatives to plastic lids on disposable containers, I thought it would be beneficial to have another solution entirely:

Use reusable lunch gear

As a consumer, you can bring a bowl or soup cup with you (or even just a tupperware container with a lid), and ask that your takeaway soup be placed in that instead.

KeepCup offers a similar idea for coffee/tea cups. I have one, and use it daily for tea/coffee from my regular cafe. That cafe also supplies keep cups to their customers, for a small fee - the customer can either return the cup when they're done and get their fee back, or keep it for their own use.

The founder of KeepCup has actually started another business focused on the issue of takeaway containers:

Aptly called Returnr, the business lets customers pick up their food in a reusable stainless steel bowl after paying a $6 dollar deposit. After eating, users can then return the bowl, re-use the bowl, or keep it forever (and forgo their $6).

But founder Jamie Forsyth tells StartupSmart he’s finding most users are opting for the second choice, re-using the bowl numerous times in an effort to avoid relying on single-use containers.

So in a few years, it might be possible to simply request a reusable container from your local eatery over a disposable one.

Note - I have no affiliation with KeepCup and they're far from the only supplier - I'm just using them as a relevant example.

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Plastic films can line paper containers.

https://www.avantium.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/20191011-Press-release-Avantium-joins-Paper-Bottle-Project-final.pdf

But also plastic is being developed that will bio-degrade in any compost situation.

https://www.avantium.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Gruter-G-J-M-Confusion-about-biopolymer-and-biodegradation.-Chem-Today-2019-37-4-54-55.pdf

Then there is more plastic news and that is that plastic can be made from carbon-dioxide. So powerplants using fossil-fuels could capture carbon-dioxide and use it to make plastic. Then that plastic could be used in long-term building materials. And those building materials could be required by building code.

https://news.rutgers.edu/how-convert-climate-changing-carbon-dioxide-plastics-and-other-products/20181120#.XlcexyFKhp8

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  • Thanks, nice answer. We are more-so looking for a cup that could sustain moisture, but is made from natural materials that will compost down completely. The closest we have found is sugarcane bagasse (a cardboard-like material that is fairly watertight and will compost completely if released into the environment). There are bagasse cups lined with PLA available which are waterproof. We're looking for a solution that will breakdown in a garden (for example), and PLA will not. Are there any water tight, plastic-like plant based liners that actually compost in normal soil conditions? – Absolute Sustainability Mar 3 at 11:46

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