The bowls at Chipotle and Sweetgreen are supposed to be compostable. They contain cancer-linked “forever chemicals.”
A study finds molded fiber bowls touted as the “ecological savior” in take-out restaurant chains and salad bars contain potentially hazardous chemicals that do not biodegrade naturally and, thus, make compost more toxic.
“The carbon-fluorine bond is very, very strong,” Lohmann says. “It’s difficult to make, but once you’ve made it, it’s difficult to break apart. There’s no angle of attack anymore for enzymes, microbes, or even radiation. There’s just no natural way to break them down. We can use incinerators or other very harsh conditions to break them down, but those are technical solutions.”
This meant that the bowls, dishes, and clamshells San Francisco had diverted to compost facilities were instead likely contaminating the compost—and eventually the food crops that it was used on—with PFAS.
“As soon as I found out, I was horrified,” Jackson says.
This class of products has likely been contaminating compost sites for years. Experts I spoke to said that PFAS have long been present in molded fiber dishware.