The plastic problem, and some solutions

Your order-in meal routine is generating trash

Bagasse containers  

Ordering in the day’s meal is a convenient option and food is just a click away, but it’s leaving behind more carbon footprint than you think, and contributing to overflowing landfills.

Grab a phone, use a food delivery app and click! For many millennials lunch is just a click away, saving them the hassle of morning cooking sessions. While the online food delivery industry has enabled easy access to every restaurant, every cuisine, it is also generating significant plastic waste in the city — containers, lids, straws, cups, spoons, covers and seasoning sachets that are left behind in dustbins at homes and offices. In a day or two, these make their way to the heaps of garbage at a local landfill, most of which cannot be processed.

Dosa bandis, haleem centres, chaat deliveries, waffle corners and cafés charge up to ₹50 for plastic packaging that can be replaced with ecofriendly options. Dry items packaged in foil or plastic can be swapped with banana leaves, bagasse containers and newspapers; bamboo and paper straws can be used instead of plastic ones and a shift can be made to biodegradable cutlery.

While the food delivery sector in India is growing at a rate of 15% per quarter as thousands of orders are placed every single day (according to a report from RedSeer Consulting in September 2017), it’s contribution towards the rising level of waste in a country that lacks proper waste management goes unnoticed.

How to switch

Pappco Greenware, Mumbai, founded by Abhishek Agarwal, aims to come up with biodegradable cutlery for domestic and commercial use. He and his team started an awareness campaign titled ‘One Less Piece of Plastic’ convincing restaurants to switch to ecofriendly cutlery and packaging. They now have more than 2000 food outlets on board, including StarBucks. “We make cutlery out of agro waste like sugarcane bagasse, wheat straws and bamboo; everything we make has zero plastic. In Hyderabad alone, more than 50 outlets buy from us,” says the 25-year-old change maker. Pappco is also currently selling paper straws that can replace plastic straws in the market.

Though not many, a few restaurants in the city have paid attention to the waste generated by the food industry and cut down on plastic packaging. Indiblaze, a restaurant chain in Banjara Hills, Jubilee Hills and Madhapur has been using biodegradable Hollowware made out of cornstarch, bagasse and bamboo for two years now. “We provide such hollowware for both in-house meals and online deliveries, except for beverages for which we use plastic cups. Not only does it help preserve the environment, it also helps conserve water that is used for washing reuseable cutlery. On a daily basis, a normal restaurant would use 80 to 120 litres of water per customer; we’ve brought it down to 30 litres,” says Vikram Simha, chef director, Indiblaze. Discussing the switch to ecofriendly hollowware and sourcing from manufacturers like Ecoware and Chuk, the IFCA (Indian Federation of Culinary Associations) smart chef reveals that while a plastic container approximately cost ₹8 in the market, biodegradable containers cost anywhere between ₹12-20 depending on the material. While switching to greenware comes at a higher cost, it shouldn’t be a matter of concern to the outlets as packaging charges are passed on to the customers by most restaurants on apps like Swiggy.

Dhanesh, who started Terrassen café, uses only paper bags and butter paper for packaging most online orders. For beverages, the café delivers in glass bottles sans any packaging charges. “It is a conscious effort, whenever I order-in during weekends from various restaurants and receive plastic containers it saddens me,” he adds. It costs the café ₹15 per glass bottle that are used to deliver beverages. While a few regular customers visit the café to return them, most of the bottles are lost in delivery. But it doesn’t really make a difference to Dhanesh as he’s been focusing on reducing waste and finding an alternative to plastic bags for soup deliveries.

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Printable version | Oct 15, 2021 9:25:30 AM |

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