And we get it (the delivery part, at least—not the cauliflower pizza thing). When you’re tired or feeling lazy, nothing can compare to the exhilaration you feel when your doorbell rings and food arrives at your doorstep. Still, this tendency to rely on what’s most convenient often leads to waste. Think for a moment of all the plastic and paper garbage you’ve accrued over the last year in food delivery orders, particularly if you’re a frequent orderer. (In countries like China, this convenience of food delivery apps has resulted in an excess of single-use plastic waste, the New York Times reported in December.)
Of course, the easiest way to curb the waste associated with delivery food or takeout is not to order at all, but let’s assume you’ve tried that and it wasn’t as successful as you would’ve hoped (or calling ahead for food is just too convenient to ever give up). If you’ve ever wanted to reduce your delivery waste as best as possible, below, a few ideas on how to minimise the damage.
Ask for what you don’t want
Our first suggestion when it comes to ridding yourself of delivery waste is simple: Ask them not to include what you don’t want. When you place a delivery or takeout order, you’ll likely receive a bunch of other items, such as utensils, condiment packets or napkins; depending on your local recycling program, the latter two aren’t recyclable. Assuming you’re using an online delivery service like Seamless or Grubhub, make it clear you don’t need the extra supplies in the “notes” section of your order. (There’s an option to refuse utensils on Seamless and Grubhub specifically, but from personal experience, most restaurants tend to ignore this request.)
In my orders, I’ll note that napkins or utensils aren’t necessary, as well as any need to place it in a plastic bag, along with a “thank you.” (On rainy days, a restaurant might use a plastic bag to avoid your order getting wet; I don’t make it a necessity in every instance.) If it’s a place you order regularly from, you might know exactly what to avoid based on your orders—and restaurants will likely accommodate the request since it’s helping them out, too. The goal is to ask for as little single-use trash as possible, so consider anything that’s unnecessary and might go to waste.
Bring your own containers
If you’re going to the restaurant to place your order, bring your own reusable container whenever possible. The restaurant will likely be more than happy to accommodate.
Of course, this strategy is pretty limited. If you’re ordering for a delivery or calling ahead to place a pickup order, the restaurant will probably frown upon putting your order in your container when it was already prepared in another. Stick to this strategy for when you’re physically present to order—and, of course, you have a reusable container in your possession.
Reuse and recycle what you do receive
Ideally, after you’ve requested as few supplies as possible with your order, you have very little garbage to dispose of. Of course, you should reuse these materials whenever possible, but if you’re looking to get rid of them, here’s what you need to know.
Depending on your council program’s rules, generally speaking, paper bags can be recycled with the rest of your paper materials, assuming the bag isn’t dirty or has come into direct contact with any food. (If it has, it might mean throwing it away in the trash.) Forget about recycling your pizza boxes: As they come into direct contact with your pizza, they’re often too soiled to be recycled. As for plastic bags, well, they generally can’t be recycled in your blue bin, either; instead, find a local pharmacy or another retailer that will accept them for reuse. In most instances, the store will have a drop-off container at its entrance.
As for any reusable plastic container, you can likely toss it with your plastics in your recycling bin, as long as it has been properly rinsed out. (But since they’re reusable, you might want to, you know, reuse them.)
When it comes to paper products, in addition to making sure they’re free of food, be aware that some recyclers may not accept certain kinds of paper containers lined with materials such as aluminium or plastic, as RecycleBank writes. (And remember: Styrofoam containers may be recyclable depending on your area, but it might require a visit to a drop-off location.)
If you want to look up the rules of your council recycling program, search online for help by plugging in the item in question and your postcode. As for any food waste, consider composting it if you’re able to. Here’s our guide on composting for beginners.