Takeout Lunches Generate Obscene Amounts of Packaging Waste

Eating on the go is costly not only to our wallets, but also to the environment.

Photo-illustration: Pixabay

Eating lunch on the go generates nearly 11 billion pieces of packaging waste every year – and that’s in Britain alone. New research by environmental charity Hubbub has found that workers buy takeout lunches and snacks much more frequently than they did five years, translating to roughly 276 items per person.

Hubbub’s survey of over 1,200 workers found that the average bought lunch consists of four packaged items, “with 76 percent of shoppers picking up a main item such as a boxed sandwich, 70 percent a packet of crisps or another snack and 65 percent a napkin.”

Sixty-four percent of people surveyed said they shop more for lunchtime food now that they did in the past, partly due to lack of time to prepare their own and the increased appeal and accessibility of pre-packaged meals. The food-to-go industry is now worth a whopping £13.6 billion (US$17.5 billion) a year. (This is estimated to be £9.9 billion more than if lunches were prepared at home.)

All of this comes at a time when we’re becoming more aware than ever of the waste we’re generating – and the need to find sustainable solutions. In response, Hubbub has launched a campaign called Food Savvy Lunch Club to encourage workplaces to reduce single-use plastic and food waste.

The Lunch Club trialled in March in one region of the UK, and results were highly successful. Food waste was cut in half, and the majority (83 percent) of participants reduced single-use plastic use by 54 percent.

The Lunch Club encourages workers to make their own meals and provides a three-week template with recipes. People are encouraged to take their own container to a restaurant for filling; and businesses are urged to get on board with a ‘Take Back, Give Back’ program that offers discounts to people who bring reusable containers.

To quote Trewin Restorick, CEO of Hubbub, from a press release,

“‘Lunch-on-the-go’ items create huge levels of waste and unfortunately much of this isn’t recyclable as it’s made from mixed materials or isn’t recycled due to contamination from food residue. By planning lunches in advance and using up items in your fridge you can massively reduce the amount of packaging you use while saving money by cutting down on food waste. In the UK we could save £58 million a day just by making our own lunches.”

If you’re a business owner, you can get in touch with Hubbub to find out about starting your own Lunch Club.

Author: Katherine Martinko

Source: Tree Hugger