Traditionally, takeaway has meant more flimsy plastic containers than you could poke a stick at! But times are changing and it’s up to all of us, whether as the customer or the business, to make our takeaway experiences as enjoyable and environmentally friendly as possible.
When ordering your next round of takeaway, here are some simple tips to keep in mind to ensure that your meal is more food than plastic.
1. Bring Your Own (BYO) packaging
Establishments set up for takeaway are also quickly adapting to be BYO friendly. You simply need to ask (which is the scariest part) and once you take the leap it gets easier every time.
If ordering a meal on the phone, mention that you’d like to bring some containers. Ultimately, this saves the business money, so it's also a win for them. BYO is particularly important at venues who are having difficulty transitioning away from plastic packaging. Such actions over time can influence these business owners to adopt more sustainable options.
Note that it is perfectly legal for a business to accept clean containers but only if they are designed to be reusable. Containers designed for single-use plastic cannot be accepted. However, businesses have every right to refuse any container if they choose.
Always remember your BYO coffee cup and encourage friends and family to follow suit.
2. Spend your dollars where your ethics align
Support venues who encourage BYO cups & containers and/or provide reusable swap networks. Swap networks, such as Green Caffeen, Huskee Swap and Returnr are getting more popular as an increasing number of venues are introducing them.
At the very least, packaging should be compostable and certified as such under Australian Composting standards AS5810 (home) and AS4736 (industrial).
Sustainability is becoming a priority for more people, and when businesses see the desire from customers to adopt better practices then it is more likely that they will rise to meet the demand.
3. Reduce unnecessary plastics (your takeaway checklist)
Obviously we cannot always be prepared with our BYO items. If you find yourself in this situation, do your best to minimise packaging as much as possible, especially if friends or family are yet to begin a plastic reduction journey, as any suggestion could be a catalyst to ignite some valuable behaviour change.
Where relying on single-use:
“No straw please”
Be quick off the mark to mention that a straw is not needed, have it be the first thing that you say. Many venues will put straws in drinks by default before you even get the chance to suggest otherwise.
“No cutlery please”
The same is true of items such as cutlery - often food is being taken home or back to the workplace to be eaten, where reusable cutlery is plentiful.
“No lid please”
If you know that a takeaway meal or drink will be consumed immediately, request that it comes without a lid.
"No bag please”
Be sure to request your meal comes without a plastic bag (especially) or any bag really, bring your own like you would to the supermarket.
Can you combine?
Ask for your whole meal to be packed in one container, i.e. meals like rice and curry often come separately but could all be packed together in one, bigger container.
How do you want sauce?
Ask for condiments to be included in the main container of a meal. Individual sauce cups are not always necessary.
When making requests, remember to please be friendly and diplomatic. Show your support to businesses who are making positive changes as well as encouraging those who are a slower off the mark. They care what you think, so this can be a great way to encourage them to keep going!