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Food delivery firms offering reusable containers in response to alarm at rising waste levels amid Covid-19

SINGAPORE — In response to concern at the increase in single-use packaging as more people order eat-in meals amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the main food delivery players here are now offering reusable options.

A reusable food container and flask use for deliveries supplied by the firm Muuse and used by various food delivery firms.

A reusable food container and flask use for deliveries supplied by the firm Muuse and used by various food delivery firms.

Singapore

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  • A study showed an extra 1,334 tonnes of plastic waste was generated from takeaway and delivery meals during the circuit breaker period
  • The three main food delivery companies here have partnered with two container sharing services to help reduce this figure
  • Customers and restaurants said that the practice has to be more universally adopted to make a big difference

 

SINGAPORE — In response to concern at the increase in single-use packaging as more people order eat-in meals amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the main food delivery players here are now offering reusable options.

Customers who order their food from selected restaurants and eateries can eat from reusable containers, and then return them to the same restaurants and participating outlets so they can be reused for future deliveries.

The initiatives were kickstarted by concerns that first emerged when it became clear that stay-home curbs from April to June had caused a significant increase in the use of single-use food containers.

A study released in June showed that an extra 1,334 tonnes of plastic waste, equivalent to the weight of 92 double-decker buses, was generated in Singapore from takeaway and delivery meals during the circuit breaker period.

While customers and merchants welcome these environmentally-friendly efforts, some expressed concerns that these initiatives have still not been adopted on a large enough scale to make a big difference.

The three main food delivery firms here — Foodpanda, Deliveroo and GrabFood — have partnered with two food container sharing services, Muuse and BarePack.

These two companies provide disposable food containers which can be used for deliveries. Instead of throwing the containers away, customers have to return them to participating restaurants — there are about 100 eateries under BarePack and 50 under Muuse.

Foodpanda has partnered BarePack since April and Muuse since July, with 49 merchants on board — totalling 71 outlets — under the two partnerships. This is a sharp increase from June, when only nine merchants had signed on.

Reusable food containers supplied by the firm BarePack. Photo: BarePack

GrabFood launched its partnership with Muuse last month, and has nine restaurants under this partnership so far.

Most recently, Deliveroo has partnered BarePack starting Wednesday (Oct 7), with 50 restaurants and eateries offering deliveries with reusable containers.

A Foodpanda spokesperson said the number of self pick-up and delivery orders using reusable containers in an average week has tripled in October compared to April when the partnership started, though it did not provide actual numbers.

And according to BarePack, its collaboration with Foodpanda has saved over 50kg of disposable packaging so far.

Both Deliveroo and GrabFood could not provide their take-up rates, as the partnerships had only recently begun.

While Muuse could not provide updated figures on the amount of waste saved so far, it said that it is “on track” to saving up to 400kg of waste by the end of the year.

To ensure that customers return the reusable containers, Muuse charges S$25 to customers who do not return their containers after 14 days. Customers who are not BarePack members have to pay a S$6 deposit, and will get it back only when they return their containers.

WHAT CUSTOMERS AND RESTAURANTS SAY

TODAY spoke to customers and restaurants who said that while they do not mind the extra hassle in having to return and wash the reusable containers, the practice has to be more universally adopted for it to make a big difference.

Since July, Foodpanda customer Ms Pimta Rerkasem has been ordering food in reusable containers about two to three times a week.

“I feel like it’s a good initiative, because I know that there’s a lot of waste (generated) in Singapore,” said the 27-year-old Masters student at the Singapore Management University.

She added that living along Bukit Timah Road was convenient as there are several restaurants nearby where she can return the containers after her meals, but that those living in less central areas — with fewer participating restaurants — may find this difficult.

“If you live in the east or in Woodlands, then there are (fewer) options (to return the containers),” she said, adding that this would deter people from choosing the reusable option.

Some participating restaurants agreed, saying that the take-up rates in areas have not been high. For instance, Makai Poke, a restaurant in the Tanjong Pagar area, has registered only five delivery orders that opted for the reusable option after about two months on board the initiative.

Participating restaurants will also have to wash the reusable containers once they are returned, but one owner of vegan restaurant WellSmoocht is not fazed by the extra work.

“If you are (talking about) sustainability, then we all have to do our part, so it is not extra trouble,” she said.

Related topics

food delivery environment plastic waste reusable

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