Consumers generate 10kg of single-use plastic waste in food deliveries every year

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

Consumers generate 10kg of single-use plastic waste in food deliveries every year

Consumers are generating more than 10 kilograms of plastic waste in food deliveries every year, reports Koreabizwire

For the past few years, several mobile applications saw a boost in engagement as more consumers spent time using their devices during lockdowns and even beyond. One of the fastest-growing sectors was food deliveries, which offered consumers safe, socially-distanced, and convenient services.  

The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns caused food establishments to close down either limit capacity or thrive by offering their menu via mobile food delivery apps. Unfortunately, along with the convenience comes waste.

A consumer watchdog, Korea Consumer Agency, studied the plastic containers used for 10 kinds of food ordered from three different food deliveries, which showed an average of 18.3 plastic packages, weighing approximately 147.7 grams, are used for each delivery. 

The plastic packaging includes containers used for the plastic bags, the main course, the side dishes, covers, plastic wraps, and sauce containers.

The agency based its calculations on data provided by local pollster Open Survey last May, estimating that an average of 2.8 food deliveries each week amounts to nearly 1341 plastic items per person each year, generating 10.8 kilograms of plastic waste.

According to the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, this number accounts for 12.2 per cent of each individual’s yearly plastic consumption of 88kg. With unrecyclable plastic such as polystyrene (styrofoam) and cling wraps, only 45.5 per cent of plastic packaging in food deliveries are recyclable. 

The rise of food delivery services puts a heavy burden on the planet. Increased emissions from vehicles, excess food waste, and unsustainable packaging are just some of the challenges this industry poses.

While one can hope that the food delivery industry creates viable and more sustainable options for the consumer, there are ways that we can make greener choices without having to wait for the businesses to take action. Some ways include looking for locally sourced options, choosing restaurants that use sustainable packaging, or opting out from single-use plastics. 

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

A digital content manager based in the Philippines, Kaycee Enerva has written for multiple publications over several years. A graduate of Computer Science, she exchanged a career in IT to pursue her passion for writing. She's slowly practicing sustainability through period cups, and eating more plant-based food.

2 comments

  1. Avatar

    While I am very concerned about all the non-reusable/unrecycled plastic packaging, I thought I misunderstood a statement made in this article.
    “Consumers are generating more than 10 kilograms of plastic waste in food deliveries every year, reports Koreabizwire”.
    Did you mean EACH consumer or that all (or some unstated number) of consumers generates that much plastic waste? I ask because 10 kilograms is only a little more than 22 U.S. pounds.
    Could you please clarify or correct your statement?
    Thank you –

    1. Robert Stockdill

      Hi Marisue. What they mean is that each consumer in South Korea generates an average of 10kg of plastic waste purely through ordering food delivery. Of course, some consumers may not order anything in a year, but others will order many times a week. So the figure is per capita.

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