With the pandemic closing a majority of indoor and outdoor dining worldwide, there was a massive surge in demand for takeout food and delivery services. This type of business model requires restauranteurs to adapt in several ways. One of those is the implementation of packaging to suit the takeout model.
With Millenials and Gen Z starting to demand sustainability in all aspects of life, implementing traditional plastic or styrofoam takeout containers is short of business suicide. The pandemic only exacerbated the change in attitude toward plastic as many lawmakers worldwide started to phase out and ban single-use packaging. But this change has created new challenges for everyone from burger shops to at-home cake businesses, whether they’re actively trying to reduce their carbon footprint or not.
Those who care about reducing wastage and emissions have to work hard like every other restaurant while sourcing and implementing sustainable packaging supplies and eco-friendly business practices.
India generates over 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste per day, which is roughly the weight of 4,300 elephants. According to the Union Environment Ministry, 60 percent of this is recycled. The remainder is disposed of in landfills, some of it clogs drains, enters the ocean as microplastics, or is burned.
Moving towards eco-friendly packaging
The fast food industry has historically leaned heavily on single-use plastics with their takeout containers and cutlery. However, during the last months, QSR like KFC, McDonald’s and Burger King have developed initiatives to limit waste from single-use food containers by introducing pilot programs for eco-friendly containers and phasing out polystyrene.
It’s essential that fast food restaurants continue with the implementation of green programs and the use of biodegradable packaging and utensils. It’s not only a topic of preference of diners or the need to comply with new laws, but it’s also a matter of ecological conscience for the benefit of our planet. Brands adopt new manufacturing processes and the use of sustainable materials in their products.
“Since the last few years, we have reduced the use of plastics across all our outlets. We have now moved towards biodegradable paper based packaging for all products, in both delivery and dine-in. While launching our flagship beverages we made a conscious decision to use glass bottles and make proper channels for the recycling of the same,” Kabir Jeet Singh, CEO and founder of Burger Singh commented.
Whether sustainable or not, packaging poses its own challenges for restaurants. Styrofoam, the go-to material for takeout for so long, takes 500 years just to start breaking down. The challenge is that these petroleum-based solutions meet food-handling requirements better than any readily available eco-friendly solutions. These single-use plastics keep food fresher for longer when compared with eco-friendly solutions that can be a lot more porous and don’t seal as well. But the easy alternative is seldom the right one.
Packaging made from compostable materials is the go-to solution for eateries looking for sustainable packaging. Sugarcane, bamboo, mushroom, or seaweed are the most common materials, but packaging made from other post-consumer waste, like bio-packaging, is also typical.
In the right environment, these materials can break down into nutrient-rich dirt in as little as 12 weeks. Certifications may indicate products compostable at home or only suitable for industrial compost facilities.
Single-use plastic ban acts as a major booster
The single-use plastic ban enforced earlier this year by the Hon'ble Govt. has brought about a change, particularly in the F&B industry. The industry has grown manifold in the last 15 years and so have woes related to service and packaging. The need of the hour is to find innovative solutions for these issues.
“In this regard, Chuk by Yash Pakka Limited has rolled out its delivery range, and the products are being well-received in the market. Much like the serviceware range, the delivery range is also made of sugarcane fibre and is 100 percent compostable. The delivery containers not only prove to be an effective alternative to the traditional plastic containers, but are also microwave-safe, freezer-safe, leak-proof and oil-proof,” Satish Chamyvelumani, CEO and business head of CHUK commented.
Yash Pakka continues to innovate and work towards finding effective solutions for the food industry. Moving forward, the company plans to specialise its offerings in three core areas - food packaging, food food carry and food service.
New innovations with new minds
Another company Bambrew, prides itself in being a company that targets leading giants that majorly contribute to plastic waste generated worldwide in conventional sectors like e-commerce, retail, FMCG, F&B etc. The company uses bamboo, sugarcane and seaweed to create eco-friendly packaging materials. Born in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, Vaibhav Anant, founder of Bambrew feels that there is a need for awareness of sustainable packaging. Bambrew has proposed a INR 5 lakh penalty instead of INR 10,000 for using plastic-based materials. At present, Bambrew is supplying its eco-friendly packaging products to f&b brands like Olive Bar and Kitchen, The Fatty Bao etc.
Eco-friendly packaging isn’t an easy course to navigate. But it’s important to remember that substitution is often quicker and more cost-effective than redesigning something from the ground up. Many materials on the market can help eateries lower their carbon footprint and appeal to a more eco-conscious crowd. For managers that are reluctant to change, remember that your customer is changing.
While they want the food you’re providing, the younger generation wants to give their money to a brand that shares their concern for the environment. One of the many advantages of eco-friendly packaging is increasing your customers’ loyalty. Sustainability in your ingredients is a must, but it’s also time to improve your packaging.