Just Eat trials reusable takeaway packaging in bid to cut plastics use

Image: Just Eat

Under the trial, customers will be given the choice between traditional packaging and reusable packaging when placing an order through Just Eat’s website or app. Customers choosing the reusable option will be asked to either arrange a collection of their used packaging, or to drop it off at a local facility. Both options are facilitated by CLUBZERO through its app.

In the first instance, the reusable packaging will be offered by six of Just Eat’s partner restaurants in London: Kin Café, Kaleido, Clean Kitchen Club, The Great Thai Restaurant, The Great Thai Grab & Go and Notes Coffee.

The trial will run for three months, with Just Eat and CLUBZERO planning to assess the results in terms of plastic and carbon savings as well as customer experience.

Just Eat’s senior director of global partnerships and sustainability Robin Clark said: “This trial will help us assess how best to roll the service out more widely so that with the support of both customers and restaurant partners, we can continue to tackle plastic pollution across the sector.”

Back in 2018, Just Eat introduced an option at the check-out whereby customers could choose to opt-out of receiving single-use cutlery sets with their order, after feedback from users who ate their meals at home and would prefer to use their own reusables.

Shortly after that, the firm started trials of compostable sachets made from seaweed, as an alternative to single-use plastic sachets for condiments. That initiative started as a six-week trial with one restaurant and was subsequently expanded to 65 restaurants in 2019, as part of a partnership with Hellmann’s.

Just Eat has since expanded its work with Notpla, which manufactures the innovative sachets, to trial compostable takeaway boxes lined with seaweed.

Speaking to edie about how these schemes have progressed in 2021, a Just Eat spokesperson said the company has trialled more than 30,000 of the alternative boxes to date and is now assessing the feedback to ascertain how to expand the use of the packaging in the UK and the Netherlands. Assessments are also ongoing regarding an expansion of the seaweed sachet scheme.

Bigger picture

It is estimated that 500 million plastic takeaway boxes are used across the UK takeaway industry each year, and that this figure will have been higher in 2020 and 2021 as lockdown restrictions forced restaurants to operate as takeaway-only businesses for months at a time.

With less than 9% of the plastics ever produced globally to date having been recycled, businesses are increasingly being called upon to introduce plastic-free or reusable alternatives.

But reusables come with many logistical challenges which disposables do not, including health, safety, cost and collection. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimatesv that just 2% of the products sold by the world’s biggest consumer goods firms in 2020 came in reusable packaging.

Last month, the UK Government launched a consultation to determine whether certain single-use plastic items should be banned in England in the coming years. Items included in the remit of the consultation include single-use plastic plates, cutlery and polystyrene cups.

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie