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Increasing Environmental Sustainability – Do We Always Need Eating Utensils When Ordering Food Online?

Last night 3 of us in the Tempest household ordered an Asian take-away which came with chop sticks. We now have enough chop sticks or plastic knives and forks to run a restaurant for a year. Therefore, this idea caught my eye – we all know that rising consumer demand for online food delivery has increased the consumption of disposable cutlery, leading to plastic pollution worldwide. In 2021, more than 400m metric tons of plastic waste were produced worldwide, and it is predicted that the world’s plastic waste growth will continue to outpace the efforts to reduce plastic pollution in the coming decades. It is against this that a new study has said simple “green nudges” could save more than 21.75bn sets of single-use cutlery (or 3.26m metric tonnes of plastic waste) if the measure was applied to all of China.

The study, which was published in the latest issue of Science magazine, investigated the impact of green nudges on single-use cutlery consumption in China in collaboration with Alibaba’s food-delivery platform, Eleme. Among its results, it found that the green nudges, which means changing the default option to “no cutlery” and rewarding consumers with “green points” increased the share of no-cutlery orders by 648%. At least our chop sticks from yesterday’s order were wooden – but then think of the number of trees that have to be felled each day to satisfy the demand for one-use chop sticks.

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Alastair Tempest

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