These Are the Most (and Least) Eco-Friendly Meal Kit Services – CNET

There’s no question that meal kits are convenient. Pick the right meal kit service, and it might save you some money over grocery store prices, too. One knock on handy meal kit delivery has always been that it’s wasteful, since items and ingredients for your dinner are often individually packaged and shipped in cardboard boxes with disposable ice packs. But as this 2019 study shows, meal kits actually cut down on food waste since ingredients are perfectly portioned with little leftover to keep fresh and use later. The same study found that meal kits typically produce a lower total overall carbon footprint than buying the ingredients in a store, despite containing more plastic.

If you’ve been wanting to try meal kits but are worried about the waste part, we commend you. To make sure you’re keeping it as green as possible, you might want to know which meal kits use the least packaging and are best for the environment. A recent study by US Packaging and Wrapping sought to determine exactly that. The shipping materials company, which CNET confirmed has no business partnerships or contracts with any meal kit services, examined four popular vendors to find the least — and most — wasteful meal kits. 

meal kit waste chart

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="28"></p> <p>Blue Apron&#8217;s meal kits proved to have the least amount of packaging waste. Home Chef lags behind the field with more single-use plastic than the other three.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">US Packaging and Wrapping LLC</span>

Blue Apron, the original meal kit service, proved to be the most eco-friendly meal kit, with an impressive 50% of its packaging being fully recyclable, just 1.19 packets per ingredient and the least amount of empty box space. After Blue Apron, there was a steep drop, with HelloFresh (second on the list) using only 9% recyclable materials and super budget-friendly meal kit service EveryPlate finishing in third with similar stats. Home Chef finished last out of the four services examined, with 2.38 packets per ingredient and just 19% recyclable materials.

Meal kit ingredients in copious plastic

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="28"></p> <p>When we tested Home Chef, we also noticed an excess of plastic waste.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">CNET / David Watsky</span>

To analyze the four services, US Packaging and Wrapping ordered three meals from each vendor and employed standardized metrics to evaluate total plastic use, recyclability of materials, number of packets per ingredient and empty box space. The four categories were accounted for in devising a final score for each one. 

Blue Apron trounced the competition, with half of its materials fit for recycling, while no other service broke even 20% in the category. The study found Home Chef’s packaging is up to 90% plastic, amounting to 56 packets across the three meals. HelloFresh used the least amount of plastic (just 66%), as meals are mostly separated in large bags and ingredients are not individually packaged.

Assorted meal kit ingredients including salmon and vegetables

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="28"></p> <p>Blue Apron uses less overall plastic and has the most recyclable packaging materials of the four meal kit services analyzed.&nbsp;</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Blue Apron</span>

So how does that compare with our experience? We’ve tested every major meal kit service and also found Blue Apron to be one of the least wasteful — in addition to one of the best, with excellent meals at an affordable price per meal. EveryPlate is our favorite cheap meal kit. While EveryPlate’s ice packs aren’t recyclable, we didn’t notice as much plastic as this study suggests, since EveryPlate sends most of the ingredients loose in a cardboard box and not packaged individually. 

Want to try a meal kit on for size? Use this sneaky hack and get months of cheap meal delivery and decide which one you like best.

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