Subway introduces 95-percent recyclable salad bowls

April 16, 2012

The Subway restaurant chain has announced that its salad bowls and lids are now made from 95 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials; predominately from plastic soda and water bottles.

By using the 95 percent PCR, the Subway brand is keeping 2.62 million pounds of plastic out of landfills, which represents about 500,000 gallons, or 10,000 barrels, of petroleum needed to make the plastic bowls and lids.

"We have made a commitment to look at everything with an eye towards taking the steps necessary to make positive, sustainable changes," said Elizabeth Stewart, Subway's marketing director who oversees the brand's sustainability efforts. "We are excited to be able to provide one salad bowl and lid made from two recycled bottles. This is one step where we have come almost full-circle in our sustainability efforts."

The salad bowls and lids are used in most of the chain's 36,000-plus locations around the world and were created by Pactiv of Lake Forest, Ill., using PETE (polyethylene terephalate). Pactiv purchases recycled soda and water bottles which are recycled at its facilities and manufactured back into salad bowls and lids.

The Subway chain is looking at additional pieces of plastic packaging that can be done the same way as well.

"We have worked with Pactiv over the years to re-design our salad bowls to use less plastic material while still holding the same amount of food," said Michael Fox, packaging technologist for Subway. "Using recycled materials, and reducing the amount of new virgin plastic, allows us to create a more sustainable product that works just as well as its predecessor. And we are able to do this without increasing costs. This is something we are all very excited about."

Nature Conservancy partnership

In addition to the salad bowl initiative, the Subway brand is partnering with The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organization (, to help raise awareness through social media for the Conservancy's second annual Picnic for the Planet celebration, which will take place on Earth Day, April 22.

Picnic for the Planet is part of the Conservancy's "All Hands on Earth," campaign which aims to build an active, global community for the environment and provide everyday ways for people to get involved in creating a healthier earth.

Also in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Subway is providing reusable Fresh Fit For Kids meal bags with Conservancy themes now through May 31. With the goal of highlighting the environment and the need for everyone to do their part to preserve and protect it, the reusable bags feature species benefiting from the Conservancy's conservation efforts across air, land and sea and are available in the almost 25,000 restaurants in the U.S. Reusable bags have been used in the U.S. and Canada since 2009.

"We are proud of the steps we have taken in our sustainability efforts, but we know there is more to do" Stewart said. "We know we are in a position to make a positive environmental impact. It is what our customers expect of us; it's what our franchisees demand of us; and what we are committed to do."

Read more about sustainability efforts.

Caption: Subway Packaging Technologist Michael Fox, and Marketing Director Elizabeth Stewart, are shown with new salad bowls made from 95 percent recycled materials.

Topics: Equipment & Supplies , Going Green , Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Operations Management , Packaging , Packaging Trends , Social Responsibility , Sustainability

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