When you’re tired, get off from work late, or simply don’t feel like cooking, takeout is an incredibly easy way to get a delicious meal delivered right to your door. Unfortunately, takeout also leads to an excessive amount of waste.
Think about the last time you ordered takeout. You likely had plastic containers holding the food, maybe a few Styrofoam containers, and plastic utensils wrapped in their own little plastic bags. Then, to top it all off, you had everything come in even more plastic bags!
While the easiest way to reduce your food delivery waste is to simply not order takeout, that’s not always the most practical option. After all, you’re still going to have those days when you don’t feel like cooking. Plus, you still want to give business to your local restaurants — even when dining in isn’t always feasible.
If you want to enjoy takeout or delivery without all that trash, here are a few ideas you can use the next time you order food to reduce your takeout waste as much as possible.
Order Directly From the Restaurant
Whenever possible, try to place your order directly from the restaurant instead of a food delivery service. When you call the restaurant, it’s much easier to customize your takeout packaging to reduce waste.
You can ask the restaurant if there’s a way for them to use less packaging. Since this is usually a win-win situation where the restaurant can save money by using less supplies and you can reduce waste, they’re almost always willing to help out in any way they can.
Ask for What You Don’t Want
One of the easiest ways to reduce waste when you order takeout is to simply ask for what you don’t want. If you’re on a road trip or having a picnic, it would make sense that you would need utensils and napkins. But if you’re eating in your own kitchen, you don’t need all those extras items they toss in the bag.
If you’re using a delivery service, you may need to specify in the comment section that you don’t need utensils, napkins, or condiments in your bag. Unfortunately, restaurants don’t always see this request.
This is another reason why it’s always better to order directly from the restaurant. When you call in, you can simply request what you don’t need.
Order More Food (And Be Mindful of What You Order)
Although it seems counterintuitive, ordering MORE food can sometimes help you produce LESS waste. If you’re ordering dinner for that evening, but realize you don’t have anything to prepare for tomorrow evening, you can reduce waste by ordering enough food to have leftovers for your next meal. This way, you’re only getting takeout containers once instead of multiple times.
You should also consider what type of food you order. While your favorite restaurant might make the best soup in the world, pretty much the only way restaurants can package it for delivery is in a plastic container.
On the other hand, items like burritos, subs, sandwiches, and kabobs often require less packaging, so they’re automatically easier to deliver without excess waste.
Bring Your Own Containers
Bringing your own containers for your takeout isn’t always an option, but it’s one that’s worth a try — especially if you’re ordering from a restaurant that you’ve developed a good relationship with.
If you’re ordering for delivery or curbside pickup, this won’t work since the restaurant has to prepare your food and put it in a container before you arrive.
However, if you’re already at the restaurant and placing a to-go order (and, obviously, you have your clean reusable containers with you), it never hurts to politely ask. Just understand that in today’s hyper-clean environment, some restaurants might not feel comfortable doing this.
Look for Restaurants Offering Biodegradable Containers
Not all restaurants are using plastic or Styrofoam for their takeout containers. Some are taking the proactive step of using biodegradable takeout containers!
Typically made from plant-based materials, such as upcycled sugarcane fibers, these takeout containers will often breakdown in about 80 days in commercial composting facilities.
In addition to creating little to no waste, biodegradable containers often don’t contain PFAS. Also known as “forever chemicals,” PFAS build up in our bodies and the environment and never breakdown. Even small doses of PFAS have been linked to cancer, immune and reproductive system harm, and other diseases.
If you find a restaurant in your area is using biodegradable containers, try to do business with them when you want takeout. Also, be sure to let them know you appreciate their choice to use biodegradable containers!
Reuse or Recycle What You Can
Hopefully, after you’ve requested all of the extras you don’t need, you’re left with very little garbage to throw away. Before you toss everything right into the trash can, take a look at what you can reuse or recycle.
If you don’t feel comfortable reusing plastic containers to store food, they’re ideal for holding a variety of other things, such as art supplies, children’s toys, tools, cleaning supplies, and beauty supplies.
You can also put them in the recycling bin after you’ve properly rinsed them out.
Aluminum containers can be cleaned and used to store food again and again without the health concerns involved with plastic.
While most curbside recycling programs can’t accept plastic bags, many grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers have drop-off containers at their entrances where you can put these bags. The same goes for Styrofoam containers.
Additionally, most curbside recycling programs will accept paper bags as long as they’re not dirty and they haven’t come into direct contact with any food.
Don’t Forget to Compost
So, what can you do about paper bags that have grease on them? And what about pizza boxes? You can compost them!
Pizza boxes are compostable as long as they’re made from corrugated cardboard and they don’t have a wax coating. The amount of grease that’s typically left on a pizza box shouldn’t be enough to cause issues in your compost bin.
Don’t forget there are plenty of other items from your takeout dinner you can compost so you can reduce your waste, including fruit and vegetable scraps, noodles, and paper napkins.
Reducing Waste From Food Delivery and Takeout
You don’t have to give up the convenience of takeout and delivery when you’re trying to live a low waste lifestyle. Instead, use some of these helpful tips to reduce takeout waste while still enjoying food from some of your favorite restaurants!
About the Author
Kristen McCalla is the founder of the Earth Friendly Tips blog. Kristen is a sustainable living expert! She decided to start Earth Friendly Tips to help others realize they can take small steps to help the planet, save money, and still enjoy their life. If you’ve enjoyed this read, please check out her website to learn more about the simple steps you can take to go green and save some green.