The Environment

Meal-Kit Deliveries Are Actually Terrible for the Environment

Ultimately a bunch of garbage.
Ultimately a bunch of garbage. Photo: Blue Apron

Turns out there’s a dark side to America’s new obsession with meal-kit deliveries: Sure, they can be convenient and healthy, but they produce a whole lot of trash. Since kits usually ship every week, and all ingredients, down to sprigs of parsley or a clove of garlic, come individually packaged, the waste produced by just one is immense, BuzzFeed noticed — a troubling realization for users, considering they’re probably also the types committed to BYO grocery totes.

To pin down how much garbage, BuzzFeed tallied the toll inflicted by meals in one kit from Blue Apron, the largest service in the increasingly crowded field. Blue Apron says it ships 5 million meals per month; the three in this kit (under the two-person plan for omnivores) were cheeseburgers, chicken with sweet potatoes, and a shrimp-couscous dish. The trash BuzzFeed says they created is as follows:
• 9 plastic bags
• 4 plastic clamshells
• 2 small containers whose sole functions were to hold a tablespoon of demi-glace and a pat of butter
• a ream of recipes and other promo materials printed on cardstock
• a foil bag used to hold a few tablespoons of tomato paste
• 3 paper bags
• 3 plastic meat packages
• the cardboard box itself
• 2 gel packs
• a foil insulated liner “not unlike the ones marathoners wear to keep warm”

It’s undeniably a lot. Blue Apron markets all of these packaging materials as “biodegradable and recyclable,” but when the writer tried the company’s “recycling locator” tool, available to subscribers, things got even messier. She learned most cities won’t do curbside pickup for the plastic bags because they’re low-density polyethylene. The ice packs, meanwhile, are recyclable only after thawing them and disposing of the fluid inside, and the foil is made from a plastic most sanitation programs won’t accept, either.

The company decided not to comment for the story, but, out of fairness, Cushing notes the trade-off for fossil fuels saved by not driving to the store to purchase the items might make it close to a wash. In any event, Blue Apron suggests frustrated subscribers try “upcycling” their trash by storing silverware in the plastic or using the box as a fun container on the beach.


Delivered Meal Kits Produce Tons of Trash