Takeout’s environmental challenges
Its important for me and my family to make takeout more eco -friendly. We are working hard on achieving a more sustainable lifestyle but while the dominant sustainability mantra is to cook at home, takeout is something is we enjoy especially on a Friday night and also life is busy so somedays you just cant cook! But takeout comes with plastic containers, unrecyclable Styrofoam cups, napkins and straws! It does not help when you know that that most plastic does not get recycled because the material properties of plastic vary and as such not all types of plastic can be recycled. Also plastic contaminated with food cant be recycled( so you must rinse out your plastic!). According to The National Geographic in the USA alone we could be using 500 million straws a day and many of these straws end up in landfills. According to CNBC, the restaurant industry has increased reliance on food delivery services during the pandemic. Many restaurants, even those that were curbing plastic waste prior to the pandemic, are not limiting the amount of plastic involved in takeout orders.
So what do we do? How can we make takeout more eco-friendly? For sure skipping take out is not the menu for most people and not a realistic solution to be honest. As for my family, we enjoy it, can’t cook all the time and we like to support local business especially during the pandemic when there was limited indoor dining capacity. Eating out and take out is something many people enjoy and being eco-friendly does not mean you can’t enjoy life once in a while!
How to make takeout more eco-friendly
Reuse containers and aluminum foil!
Re-using your containers is simple way to make your takeout more eco-friendly. A lot of takeout comes in black plastic containers that are not easily recyclable. According to multiple sources including the World Economic Forum, the optical sorting systems used at many recycling plants can’t pick out the black pigment in the black plastic and as result, much of it remains unsorted and ends up in landfill. Although this plastic is designed to single use, it is durable so don’t throw it away! Use your takeout containers for food storage and other uses too. I actually use mine to store kids crayons! If food comes wrapped with aluminum foil, re-use it! Even though we tend to think of aluminum foil as a single-time-us item, you can actually clean foil and re-use it several times. Aluminum foil non-porous so wont get moldy or icky after you wet it. Also you can also flatten it out, even after it’s crumpled!
Wash and recycle what you can recycle
We are generally not doing a great job recycling. According to a Huffington post article on why people don’t recycle only half of adults recycle daily. Another third of respondents said they recycle less frequently than that, and a full 13 percent revealed that they never recycle. Our take out containers must be recycled appropriately. Wash and recycle the small salad dressing containers and probably not rinsed and recycled enough.
Opt out of napkins and silverware
Most takeout is eaten at home so there is really no need for silverware or napkins. Some delivery services for example Uber eats has single-use plastic utensils, straws & condiments as an opt-in option to help reduce plastic pollution. For the other services that don’t have option this you can add this note for restaurant to leave them out. According to National Geographic billions of forks, knives, and spoons are thrown away each year. Plastic utensils aren’t easy to recycle because to due to their small, skinny shape they tend to either fall through or get stuck in the machinery that sorts objects into groups of the same material.
Exclude what you dont eat, dont waste left over and compost what you can compost
According to the RTS, a leading waste management consultancy, the USA is the global leader in food waste, with Americans discarding nearly 40 million tons of food every year. That’s 80 billion pounds of food and equates to more than $161 billion approximately 219 pounds of waste per person and 30-40 percent of the US food supply. Most of this food is sent to landfills; food is the single largest component taking up space inside US landfills. In fact, it makes up 22 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW).Our take-out society doesn’t use food in its entirety the way our ancestors used to. We underutilize leftovers and toss food scraps that can still be consumed or composted.
Bring your own doggie bag, especially when with kids who never finish food
This is something I need to do more of because my daughter never finishes her food. These days most restaurants give you the containers to pack your food so why not bring your own!