Bring your own containers, bottles or cups
A study comparing the environmental impacts of the three most widely used types of takeaway containers has found single-use polypropylene containers to have the highest global warming potential. Aluminium has the highest impact on the depletion of the ozone layer and human toxicity.
When comparing aluminium, polypropylene (plastic containers) and extruded polystyrene (EPS), a polystyrene container has the overall lowest impact due to its lower electricity consumption when produced.
The carbon footprint is 50% lower than aluminium containers and even three times lower than other plastic alternatives.
Unfortunately, in Australia, only 29.7% of expanded polystyrene is recycled. Often it ends up in landfill, where it takes hundreds of years to break down. If recycled in Australia, the collection costs are often greater than landfill costs.
Paper packaging is a popular alternative to plastic and looks environmentally friendly. However, a study has found that it takes four times more energy to manufacture a paper shopping bag than a plastic bag. 71% more water is needed to produce a paper bag, and forests are cut down.
Paper is thicker than plastic and requires more energy for transportation. Unfortunately, and unknown to many, it requires more energy to recycle paper than plastic. Paper can be recycled up to eight times. If the paper is thrown into landfill it creates methane while it breaks down. It doesn’t necessarily break down quicker in landfills because of lack of water, light and air. However, paper is recycled at a higher rate. In Australia, around 60% of paper is recovered and recycled. While only 12% of plastics are recycled. Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution for packaging, the best we can do is reuse what we already have.
There has never been more choice when it comes to takeaway food. However, buying takeaway food contributes significantly to global waste and negatively impacts our environment. Takeaway food gets served in containers with low recyclability and mostly ends up in a landfill.
How can we reduce the use of single-use takeaway packaging? Using a reusable container is always the best option. Eating out? Bring your own container and ask for your food to be served in it. Some establishments might even offer a reusable container as part of their reuse system, this is also often the case with coffee cups.
RETURNR is an environmental initiative that aims to replace single use takeaway packaging with equivalent reusable solutions. To see participating cafés and restaurants, visit the RETURNR website.
Deliveroo is one of their partners. Some venues have created their own reusable programs. Others will accept it if you bring your own container. Check a list of cafes and restaurants here. Do you know of any businesses in Australia that accept reusable containers for takeaway food or produce? You can add a business to Trashless Takeaway.
(Warning, some venues may not be accepting containers due to COVID19).
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