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What are restaurants using to replace banned Styrofoam clamshells?

A green cardboard food container that includes the "Lloyd's" logo and the words "STREET FOOD ON THE EDGE."
Mike Desmond
Lloyd's brands itself on its new cardboard food containers.

Those familiar white plastic foam clamshell takeout food boxes disappeared with 2021. WBFO's Mike Desmond visited some restaurants Thursday to see what packaging food comes in now.

There's enough turnover in the restaurant business that some never used those foam packages. New York State outlawed them because in a landfill they will probably outlast nearby stars.

At Mythos restaurant on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo, Dino Klentos said they have been replaced with a plastic container that is biodegradable and not cheap.

"We replaced them with a BPA-free, non-toxic plastic. The product costs three times more," Klentos said. "We agree that it's the right thing to do, but it is just a little unfortunate that it costs three times more, especially with the supply going up."

Klentos said it's also very strange. If the restaurant wanted a black box, it's twice as expensive as a white one and no one knows why. But it's better.

"I have had a lot of customers have a concern with the Styrofoam, 'cause the Styrofoam melts and there's been studies about the chemicals not being good for your body and it's not appetizing to see the Styrofoam melting on your food," Klentos said. "The food definitely tastes better and looks better coming out of this new plastic here. But, again, it is plastic. It is recyclable. But at the end of the day, it is also plastic."

A restaurant worker is behind a counter with stacked Lloyd's food boxes on it.
Mike Desmond
The cardboard food boxes at Lloyd's are as stackable as other versions.

On Ellicott Street, Brothers owner Romone Anderson said he uses clear plastic boxes.

"The foam clamshell, to me, sweats your food out a lot more. You put fries in it, they get super soggy. You put burgers in there, they get supper soggy. Chicken wings, the list can go on and on and on," he said.

Anderson said the new packages are reuseable and the customers can look through the clear plastic and see exactly what they are about to eat. Each box costs about 85 cents.

"When we first came out with them, we pretty put that cost in our menu," Romone said. "So us going up on prices and things like were sort of kind of able to stay the same, because we've been using the containers from day one."

Lloyd Taco Factory uses cardboard packaging printed with the company name and logo. Each one costs $1.

Evening Shift Leader Alexandra said she wants those white foam boxes gone and replaced.

"We have never actually used foam ones and I'm a big advocate for getting rid of foam myself, so I hope that every place is taking care of that," she said.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.