The plastic mess of takeaway.

The recent surge of takeaways has led to an increase in food waste and plastic pollution. On average, every takeaway has 6 pieces of plastic including multiple plastic bags, cutlery, straws, trays, and sauce sachets/pots. If we are planning to eat at home, do we really need all these extra bits of plastic?

Some of us may think that plastic boxes and cutlery can be recycled. However, they are most often rejected in recycling facilities because they have grease or food residues. Sachets are not even recyclable. At the end of the day, most of this plastic ends up being incinerated or in landfill. The rest, 300 million pieces of littered plastic the UK alone!, end up in our beautiful oceans and parks where they endanger wildlife. Is it worth it?


If you are concerned about the amount of waste linked to your takeaway, there is something you can do:

  • Next time you order online or on an app, leave a note asking not to have cutlery, straws, extra napkins, sauce sachets/pots and other unnecessary items.
  • If ordering on Deliveroo, remember to check the ‘no plastic cutlery’ box.
  • Next time you go to your favorite local restaurant, bring your own food boxes for your meal. If possible, try to talk to the manager or front of house person about the waste that takeaways generate, describing how you feel when you receive the unnecessary multiple plastic bags, extra cutlery and sauce sachets. 

Encourage your favourite local restaurant/cafe/food stall to:

  • Start asking customers whether they need straws, cutlery, or sauce sachets and do not include them if not requested.
  • Accept customer’s clean boxes and give them a small discount for bringing their own containers.

Some resources on this topic:

Food delivery packaging and tableware waste

Review of Online Food Delivery Platforms and their Impacts on Sustainability

Sky news: Deliveroo’s opt-in button

Dailymail: Billion plastic trays, lids, and bags a year

Thetimes: Just-Eat, Deliveroo, and Uber-eats plastic waste

Camden Recycling Contamination

TheGuardian: Lunch-on-go plastic waste

A plastic planet: Sack-the-sachet campaign

Single-use plastic reduction at UK higher learning institutions

BBC: Coronavirus Pandemic causing new wave of plastic pollution