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Reusing tableware can reduce waste from online food deliveries

phys.org
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Lifestyles in China are changing rapidly, and ordering food online is an example. However, those billions of delivery meals produce an enormous amount of plastic waste from packaging, but also from food containers and cutlery; in one year, some 7.3 billion sets of single-use tableware accompany the food. Around one-third of the 553 kilotons of municipal solid waste that is generated each day comes from packaging. That is why a group of scientists analyzed whether using paper alternatives or reusable tableware could reduce plastic waste and associated life cycle emissions.
A typical meal ordered online. Credit: University of Groningen



Alternatives

Ya Zhou (associate professor at Guangdong University of Technology) and Yuli Shan are the first authors of this paper. Yuli Shan, Dabo Guan (Professor at Tsinghua University) and Yanpeng Cai (Professor at Guangdong University of Technology) are the corresponding authors.

"We quantified the environmental impact and modeled different alternatives," explains Shan. The alternatives to the single-use plastic tableware were single-use paper alternatives and reusable silicone tableware that is cleaned either by the restaurants that cook the food or in a central cleaning facility.

Paper substitution

Paper may sound like a good alternative since it can be degraded, but single-use polyethylene-coated paper containers and bags actually increased emissions and total waste volume. "For those areas without paper waste collection and recycling systems, paper substitution is not the optimal option for…
Science X staff
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