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Don’t order plastic this Christmas!

After a year of hibernation, chances are the upcoming summer season is just what you’ve been waiting for.

The opportunity to kick back and relax during the festive season might also mean less time to prepare meals, with the allure of takeaway after a busy day all too powerful.

Traditionally, takeaway has meant more flimsy plastic containers than you could poke a stick at! But times are changing and it’s up to all of us, whether as the customer or the business, to make our takeaway experiences as enjoyable and environmentally friendly as possible.

When ordering your next round of takeaway, here are some simple tips to keep in mind to ensure that your meal is more food than plastic packaging.

1. Bring Your Own (BYO) packaging

Establishments set up for takeaway are also quickly adapting to be BYO friendly. You simply need to ask (which is the scariest part) and once you take the leap it gets easier every time.

If ordering a meal on the phone, mention that you’d like to bring some containers*. Ultimately, this saves the business money, so it's also a win for them. BYO is particularly important at venues who are having difficulty transitioning away from plastic packaging. Such actions over time can influence these business owners to adopt more sustainable options.

Always remember your BYO coffee cup and encourage friends and family to follow suit.

At the time of writing this, clean BYO cups and containers are allowed under COVID-19 conditions in SA.

*please note: there are limitations on what containers a business can accept. See our explanation at the end of this guide.

2. Spend your dollars where your ethics align

Support venues who encourage BYO cups & containers and/or provide reusable swap networks, such as Green Caffeen and Returnr (see our blog on how these work). At the very least, packaging should be compostable.

Sustainability is becoming a priority for more people, and when businesses see the desire from customers to adopt better practices then it is more likely that they will rise to meet the demand.

3. Reduce unnecessary plastics (your takeaway checklist)

Obviously we cannot always be prepared with our BYO. If you find yourself in this situation, do your best to minimise packaging as much as possible, especially if friends or family are yet to begin a plastic reduction journey, as any suggestion could be a catalyst to ignite some valuable behaviour change.

Where relying on single-use:

“No straw please”. Be quick off the mark to mention that a straw is not needed, have it be the first thing that you say. Many venues will put straws in drinks by default before you even get the chance to suggest otherwise.

“No cutlery please”. The same is true of items such as cutlery - often food is being taken home or back to the workplace to be eaten, where reusable cutlery is plentiful.

“No lid please”. If you know that a takeaway meal or drink will be consumed immediately, request that it comes without a lid.

“No bag please”. Be sure to request your meal comes without a plastic bag (especially) or any bag really, bring your own like you would to the supermarket.

Can you combine? Ask for your whole meal to be packed in one container, i.e. meals like rice and curry often come separately but could all be packed together in one, bigger container.

How do you want sauce? Ask for condiments to be included in the main container of a meal. Individual sauce cups are not always necessary.

When making requests, remember that many businesses have had a difficult time this year so please be friendly and diplomatic. Show your support to businesses who are making positive changes as well as encouraging those who are a slower off the mark. They care what you think, so this can be a great way to encourage them to keep going!

*Note: it is perfectly legal for a business to accept clean containers (including under Covid-19 conditions) but only if they are designed to be reusable. Single-use plastic containers cannot be accepted. However, businesses have every right to refuse any container if they choose.

Many businesses may not have thought about a BYO or returnable container option so at the very least you are putting the idea in their minds. In this instance, you could suggest they consider accepting containers or check out a container swap system such as Returnr.


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