Bowls Used By Chipotle And Sweetgreen Contain 'Forever Chemicals'

Takeout packaging has long been thought of as a wasteful endeavor, as everything is disposable, and by default, a big waste of resources. Plastic that isn't recyclable (or recycled) just winds up in a landfill somewhere, and additionally, there are questions about its effects on our health and the environment. Enter the fiber-based, compostable bowl used by Chipotle and other restaurants. They're compostable and better for the environment than plastic is, and since they aren't plastic, they're better for health reasons, too — or so everybody thought. 

Unfortunately for those who adore these restaurants and eat out of their bowls, a recent study published by The New Food Economy revealed those bowls contain a "troubling class of chemicals." 

Testing of samples at 14 locations of eight different New York City restaurants, including Chipotle and Sweetgreen, uncovered that the bowls had been treated with PFAS, which are man-made chemicals designed to help the bowls hold up to their warm, messy contents and not fall apart all over your desk. Unfortunately, these chemicals are not good for you (or the environment) in the slightest. The worst types of PFAS have been phased out in the U.S., but came with some serious baggage in the health department — they've been linked to thyroid disease, colitis, and a few types of cancers. They can also negatively influence infant birth weight, and can have damaging effects on the immune system. While we might not have to worry about those worst offenders today, according to the study, "These bowls are more likely to contain newer varieties [of PFAS] that are just as persistent in the environment and are of grave concern to scientists, but have not been studied as closely for potential health effects."

To make matter worse, PFAS are considered "forever chemicals." This means they don't break down, either in the environment or your body, and worse yet, they accumulate over time, so the more you use, the more exposure you receive. That's enough to make you switch from bowls to burritos, isn't it?

According to The New Food Economy, an alternative packaging made without PFAS does not currently exist, but efforts are underway to develop a replacement as San Francisco will ban bowls purposefully treated with PFAS in 2020.