The Truth About… Food Delivery and Takeaway

After a long day’s work, it’s way easier to order takeaway than to cook up a meal – we get it. The problem is that food delivery and takeaways create a lot of waste, thanks to the sheer amount of plastic and paper used to pack and deliver the food. This waste eventually ends up in landfills, potentially persisting in the environment for thousands of years – yet the siren call of cheap and easy takeaway food is too tempting to ignore. So, how much waste is the takeaway industry producing and what can we do about it? 

takeaway containers
Source: Shutterstock

Hong Kong-based environmental charity Greeners Action conducted a survey in 2020, which estimated that Hong Kongers use over 100 million pieces of single-use plastic tableware every week – a figure that had doubled since the year before. Although this study was conducted at the height of the pandemic (meaning the figures may be lower now), the damage has already been done – those single-use plastic items will never truly disappear.

Is it greenwashing?

These days, many delivery companies such as Deliveroo and Foodpanda are answering the call to be more eco-friendly by claiming to have sustainable choices and options on their menus. They include reducing plastic and food waste, offering more sustainable packaging and even tracking carbon emissions, but how much of this is true and how much is smoke and mirrors? 

In July 2021, Deliveroo announced that they’ve partnered with The Loops on a recycling programme, which will “encourage its corporate clients and restaurant partners” to “to have a long-lasting recycling programme.”

Foodpanda says they are looking at collaborating with O-Park – the first organic resources recovery centre in Hong Kong – “to convert the kitchen waste generated from their vendors into energy.”

To spot greenwashing, look at the language used in these companies’ pledges – do they “have plans” to implement certain green initiatives? Are they “working on” projects? Beyond this, have they put any concrete plans in place, or have they published results from any initiatives? If not, that could be a sign of greenwashing.

This language is used to create the illusion that they’re working hard to make their practices greener, but as consumers, we need to be more aware of these deceitful practices to make sure that the sustainable choices that we make are actually sustainable. 

takeaway containers
Source: Shutterstock

What can you do? 

Firstly, choose restaurants or delivery companies that use sustainable packaging, and always say no to plastic cutlery. If you do receive your meal in plastic containers, make sure that you wash, recycle and/or reuse it. 

Another option is to pick your food up instead of having it delivered to you. This way, you can even bring your own containers instead of having them use single-use plastic ones.

Finally, be mindful about how much food you order and try to order everything from one vendor, in one go. Ask youself if you’ll actually eat all of it, or will most end up as leftovers in the fridge and eventually get thrown away? This way of thinking may help reduce the food waste you produce. Each year, an estimated 900 million tonnes of food is thrown away around the world, and 60% of this is in the home.

It may feel like our choices have no impact when so much waste is being produced, but if we all worked to make our lives a bit greener, it would make a huge difference in the long run. If you’re looking for more inspo on how to make your life a bit greener, check out our Instagram (@8shadesofficial).

Sign up for the 8Shades weekly newsletter to get all our top stories in your inbox!

See also: 8 Sustainability Podcasts for Eco-Conscious Living