Let's face it, we're all really busy and sometimes takeaway food is just a necessity. Even when it's not and you just feel like eating out or grabbing something tasty on the way home, there's no denying that takeaway and fast food generates a LOT of waste. In this article, we're going to talk about making your takeaway completely trashless and also choosing fast food that's plastic free.
Trashless vs Plastic Free Takeaway - what's the difference?
Put really simply - trashless is handing over your own containers at the local Chinese Takeaway and Plastic Free is ordering pizza and garlic bread because the pizza comes in a cardboard box and the bread is wrapped in aluminium foil. There's still waste, but it's not plastic.
Tips for doing takeaway trashless
ONE - Plan Ahead
Besides remembering to bring your containers with you, it's a good idea to ask in advance whether it's ok to bring your own containers. If they say yes, do everything you can to make it an easy experience for the shop so they don't say no to the next person. Ask them what time they want the containers and be prepared to wait a little longer while they use them. Also ask if it's inconvenient to do this in peak times and it is, plan around it. For many takeaway venues, this is still very much a new experience for all. Make it simple.
TWO - Make sure it's an appropriate container
Ask this in advance if you're unsure. Handing over an already used takeaway container probably isn't a good idea. Plastic, in general, with hot food, can leave smells and stains and they may be very reluctant to use them. Hand over glass or stainless steel steel if you can. Do your best not to hand anything over with a tricky lid to close. They are busy, and they are doing you a favour (and the planet!). Make sure they can easily fill it as well. At places like Boost Juice, they're happy to take your reusable smoothie cup, but only if it has a wide opening like a cup so they can get the jug in to fill it. Be mindful that a large ladel or the edge of a wok being tipped up is filling your container and make sure the opening is suitable.
THREE - Make sure it's clean. And I mean really clean!
One glance at something that's potentially dirty will turn your 'yes' in to a no. If there's water droplet marks on your glass container, buff them off. Make sure the outside is clean as well as the inside. I would go so far as to hand them over pulling them out of a reusable bag so they can see the base wasn't sitting on the backseat of your car. They are going to put these containers down on clean surfaces that they'll want to stay that way. One great idea is to actually carry them in to the store in an insulated cooler or lunch bag. This will keep the containers clean and keep your food warm for the trip home.
FOUR - Say thank you more than once!
For this to become commonplace, endless smooth transactions need to occur where the shop feels good at the end. Thank them for letting you do this when you hand the containers over and again at the end.
Our trashless takeaway kit
We figured this out quite by accident when looking at the new stock from Project Ten. If you don't already have suitable containers at home (if you do, just use those), here's a great compact kit to keep in the car.
1 x Project Ten Insulated Lunch Bag (the long rectangle one)
4 x Ever Eco stainless steel lunch boxes - either the single compartment or the bentos if you feel they're appropriate
1 x Ever Eco Stainless Steel Mini Containers Set - for dipping sauces
1 x Insulated Food Jar (optional) for soups. It won't fit in the bag, but it has its own insulation.
All 4 stainless steel lunch boxes that you see in the photo above fit inside the Project Ten bag along with the 3 mini containers (you can actually fit 4 in but they are sold in a set of 3). The insulated food jar has to be carried singly. For my own personal use, this kit does me my favourite Chicken & Sweet Corn Soup + 3 mains and a fried rice and dipping sauce for the entrees from my local Chinese Takeaway.
And here it is with the lid almost closed so you can see they really do fit in.
The products in this kit as listed over in the left hand column for you if you'd like to click through and take a closer look.
You can also join the Facebook page Trashless Takeaway to learn who accepts reusable food containers and there's an app to download on your phone too.
Plastic Free Takeaway for when you're in a hurry and not 'packing'!
This is when most people buy takeaway. You're in a hurry, totally unprepared and you want something filling that won't make too much rubbish. There are usually quite a lot of options available in a food court or takeaway cluster where the packaging isn't plastic. Please bear in mind for this article, we're not taking the health value of the food in to consideration.
I know if I'm grabbing lunch at Soul Origin (one of the healthier options where I hang out), then much to the dismay of my naturopath and my gut health, I will choose a wrap over a salad because they won't take my container and the packaging is some foil and a paper bag. Wheat is a sometimes food for me personally, so I will usually limit it to times like this.
- Pizza (cardboard box)
- Garlic bread (alfoil - it's recyclable, one of the most recycled items around)
- Pies / Sausage Rolls / hot delights from the baker - usually given over in a paper bag
- Sandwiches / Subs - usually done in a paper bag
- Fish & Chips - check, but many places still wrap in paper only. Ask first.
- Donuts - ask for it in a paper bag
Ask your local Italian restaurant if they have aluminium foil containers with the silver lined cardboard lids. Many use them to bake their lasagne in and will be more than happy to use it instead of plastic if you ask. Even some of the larger chains are pretty good with some of their packaging, depending on what you order.
One of my biggest tips for at least reducing the amount of plastic is to ask for no cutlery (so many places just pack it in automatically) and to say no to carry bags. You can also say no to condiments and even the docket. Thermal paper not only has bpa in it, but they have plastic in it. Unless you really need a receipt, tell them you don't need one before you hand your card or cash over.
Plastic Free Takeaway Trickery - don't be fooled
There are plenty of packing materials that some may think are plastic free but are not. Cardboard boxes that are leakproof and shiny inside have a layer of plastic film inside and like single use coffee cups, cannot be recycled. Same goes for cups that hot chips are sometimes packed in. If it's leakproof, it has plastic inside.