In recent years, takeout food in packaging has only increased, making it easier for travellers. But, for the environment? Not really. So, let’s decode packaging and act consciously as we go forward.
Takeout food is a convenient go-to for travellers who want to travel light. It helps them eat on the go in disposables, which do not need to be lugged around. Also, if there is leftover food, it is bound to go into the trash along with the disposable. However, just imagine the amount of waste produced due to food wastage and disposables!
According to a DowntoEarth.org story, “Around 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste is produced every year in India. Half of this is contributed by 53 cities alone. Aluminium takes more than a hundred years to decompose if it ends up in landfills, which it will.” A popular national daily states that about 50 kg of food is wasted per person per year in Indian homes. This is almost the weight of 6 trucks.
Therefore, it is important to understand what you, as a traveler, might eat on the go. Also, the packaging that the food may come in, and its alternatives, apart from the portions being served. Then, finally consciously acting upon that information is the way to travel sustainably.
American Fast food chains
KFC, McDonald’s and Subway all tend to use paper packaging without a plastic lining. McDonald's has now moved to reusable drink containers, which is a great step towards reducing waste. While KFC and McDonald’s have moved to paper tapes, Subway uses plastic cello tapes. However, when requested, they do use paper tapes. At Subway, they are not paper-activated tapes, and the glue still contains some amount of plastic.
Chips generally come in silver-coloured packing, which may appear as foil. However, since nothing much has been said against foil, it seems a fine option. However, chips actually come in multi-layered plastic, which is eventually a form of plastic.
These are single use plastic as experts recommend not using these PET bottles again to store drinking water as it causes the plastic to leach.
These may come in plastic containers that are reusable and microwaveable. But, these are often treated as disposables on the go, and therefore, are not a great idea. Sometimes, food may also come in aluminium containers. Otherwise, in paper containers with paper lids or clear plastic lids. However, the only way these paper containers survive gravies and oils is by having a thin plastic layer inside.
So, the next time you order takeout, see if you can instead spend some time and dine in. Of course, make sure they have reusable crockery and cutlery. If that is not possible, look for alternatives or use your own crockery to take it out.
Choose glass bottles when you crave a drink. And in the worst case, if you must resort to the disposables, check if they are biodegradable. Ask the vendor to skip the tapes, staple pins and anything else that is unnecessary. And, if you are stuck with not really reusable packaging, clean it and give it for recycling, responsibly. Also make sure to ask yourself, was the food or beverage really worth that packaging waste?
(Heena Shah is an avid traveller and covers topics such as sustainable travel and lifestyle. Got comments, suggestions? Contact: Explorer.email@example.com)