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How the UK’s lunch-on-the-go habit is harming the environment

17 May 2019

Grabbing a meal deal from your local supermarket can produce a huge amount of waste that campaigners say could be avoided by bringing your own lunch to work.

Whilst convenient, when you consider each piece of packaging involved in your sandwich, pasta, crisps, drink or chocolate bar, especially over a 5-day working week, then it starts to add up. In fact, the UK’s lunch-on-the-go habit generates just under 11 billion pieces of packaging per year.

This seems to be a problem that is only getting worse, as a recent survey conducted by environmental campaign group, Hubbub, highlights. 1,200 office workers were asked about their lunchtime eating habits and more than half admitted to buying takeaway lunches more often than they did five years ago. That’s an estimated 276 items of waste per person per year.

Ultimately, lunch-on-the-go “is a recycling minefield” according to Hubbub’s Tessa Tricks. Whilst many people have good intentions, many offices simply don’t have the infrastructure to support efficient recycling or composting. At W&S Recycling, we can set your business up with means for recycling paper, glass, and plastic, as well as provide a regular collection service for your convenience.

What’s the solution?

According to Hubbub, the answer is more packed lunches. They also suggest that if you do fancy a lunch from a deli, then you can request that the staff use your own container from home.

There is also evidence that providing monetary incentives like discounts for people who bring their own food containers to cafes, delis and takeaway food establishments can work. Lyn McAlister, owner of Café 7 in Norwich, introduced a 10% food discount for customers who brought their own lunch container with great success.

"I think we need to keep spreading the word and hopefully other companies will come aboard too," she says. However, there is some resistance to this idea from larger takeaway chains, who claim that customers bringing their own containers could present a health and safety risk. 

Meanwhile, some brands are taking other actions in order to reduce waste. Pret a Manger has started moving its napkins and cutlery behind the counter and noticed a 30% reduction in plastic cutlery usage as a result.

We are an experienced team of recycling specialists based in Dorset and Oxfordshire. For more information about our recycling services, or for further advice on how we can help with waste disposal and rubbish collections for your home or business, contact our team on 01202 675564.

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Locate your nearest household waste centre and scrap yard using the list below. Unsure of where your waste needs to go? Contact our team and we'll be more than happy to help. For your local council charges visit the Oxford Council and Dorset For You websites.

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