SINGAPORE: Don’t need any disposable cutlery? You can now check that option when you make a food order on Deliveroo.
To mark World Environment Day on Tuesday (Jun 5), the British food delivery service has rolled out an “opt-in for cutlery” feature in Singapore, allowing customers to say no to plastic forks and spoons when they make orders on its app and website.
It will also dish out 100,000 straws made from corn starch to its restaurant partners for free on a first-come-first-served basis, as part of its plan to fire up the use of non-plastic packaging options for takeaway deliveries.
“As a company, we are determined to help contribute to efforts to reduce the amount of plastic we all use in society and deliver real, tangible changes that will help our environment,” said Deliveroo’s Singapore general manager Sid Shanker.
At the moment, every order via Deliveroo comes with plastic cutlery supplied by the restaurants. The company said it has received feedback from customers “asking (it) to do more” to reduce plastic packaging.
“We are conscious of the environmental cost that comes with convenience, and we want to deliver food in the best way possible while reducing our impact on the environment,” it told Channel NewsAsia.
Citing a trial done in the United Arab Emirates, all of the restaurants involved used fewer cutlery, with 85 per cent noting a reduction of more than half. Similarly in the United Kingdom where the “opt-in” feature went live in February, 91 per cent of meals are now delivered without disposable cutlery.
With the feature extended to nine other markets including Singapore, Deliveroo said the reduction in plastic packaging will be “significant”.
The food delivery company also told Channel NewsAsia that it will be procuring compostable drinking straws from Bali-based social enterprise Avani Eco. These non-plastic alternatives, manufactured from polylactic acid or more commonly known as corn starch, “give off none of the toxic chemicals associated with conventional plastic”, it added.
By providing 100,000 of these straws for free as part of the launch, Deliveroo hopes to steer restaurants towards sustainable practices as it aims to make more eco-friendly packaging options available in all markets by the end of the year.
For this, it will be working with manufacturers to develop “first-of-its kind sustainable packaging ideal for food delivery” and will have them “competitively priced against traditional plastic options” to encourage restaurants to make the switch.
INDIVIDUALS ALSO MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
A similar initiative allowing consumers to opt out of disposable cutlery is also available on foodpanda.
Since its roll-out in January, more than 100,000 plastic-free orders have been made in Singapore and the food delivery firm estimates that it could save up to over a million sets of cutleries by the end of 2018.
The success in Singapore has also prompted the company to roll out the feature in other Asia-Pacific markets, such as Hong Kong and Thailand.
“We will be continuing in our sustainability mission and are currently exploring fully biodegradable packaging to roll out globally,” said Mr Luc Andreani, managing director of foodpanda in Singapore.
The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) said it welcomes any initiatives by companies to reduce the excessive use of single-use plastic.
While food delivery services are not solely to blame, SEC’s executive director Jen Teo said a busy lifestyle and the readily available takeaway food choices have combined to increase the amount of food packaging waste generated by Singaporeans.
The SEC has also observed a shift away from paper packaging towards plastic containers and bags.
Even as it applauded the move and acknowledged that companies can do more, Ms Teo stressed that individuals also have the responsibility to proactively reduce waste.
“Each of us can make daily choices to help minimise food packaging waste,” she said. “For example, we can decline to take disposable cutlery and straws if we are having a meal at home or in the office. Or we can bring our own reusable cups and cutlery when dining out.”