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Food, Glorious Food - #PlasticLessLent: Week 5

Food, Glorious Food - #PlasticLessLent: Week 5

Tenor Tom Herford models some of the items on trial this week

This week, as part of their #PlasticLessLent challenge, the choir are looking at ways to reduce our use of plastic when buying takeaway food, and how to store any leftovers at home without automatically reaching for the clingfilm and Tupperware.

Whether grabbing a sandwich from your favourite deli at lunchtime, or dinner when passing the Indian takeaway on the way home, it is very easy to get through a lot of single-use plastic when eating on the hoof in London. So what can be done to reduce the amount of waste generated by eating out?

Whilst it has quickly become acceptable to carry your own water bottle or coffee cup around the capital, it is highly unusual to see someone taking their own containers to a takeaway food establishment. It's interesting to note just how few cafés and take away chains are currently willing to serve their food in their customers' own containers. Some cafes cite heath and safety as a reason for not dishing out their food into just any old pot, and also a desire to stick to the allotted volume per portion. Hot food in particular is mostly served in plastic pots which easily regulate portion size.

But business has to move on with the wishes of the consumer to stay afloat, and the more people request to use their own containers, the more cafes and restaurants will have to work out how to keep the customers happy.

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Plastic-less Pots for Lunch

So, you've had a word at your favourite lunchtime café, and they are willing to give it a go and serve you your food in your own receptacle. What plastic free containers are out there on the market to try?

Leon have brought out two bamboo plastic-free lunchboxes, available exclusively from John Lewis:

https://www.johnlewis.com/leon-round-bamboo-lunch-pot/p3128836

UK firm Elephant Box sell an Indian-inspired range of stainless steel lunchboxes and air-tight canisters.

https://elephantbox.co.uk/

And of course, if you have a decent set of plastic Tupperware at home, then it would be better to use that multiple times over many years, than disposable plastic boxes once.

Takeaway for Dinner

Often independently owned, your local Chinese or Indian takeaway may well be happy for you to bring in your own pots, as they are not so highly-regulated as the chains in the city centre. This restaurant in Bristol has run a tiffin scheme for years with great success. Regular customers invest in a stainless steel tiffin set, which the restaurant sells with the first meal heavily discounted. They then return for future meals with their tiffin washed and ready to be filled:

http://www.thethalirestaurant.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Thali_Tiffin_Menu_2017_01.pdf

When ordering a takeaway pizza, ask them not to put the plastic tripod in the box. It's not a necessary addition, and it's not reusable, unless you have some mice in need of a patio table.

The company Just Eat have pledged to reduce the amount of throwaway plastic in their takeaways, so look out for their logo on your local takeaways' windows. Country Life reports on their progress:

http://www.countryliving.co.uk/create/food-and-drink/news/a3426/single-use-plastic-takeaway-just-eat/

Home food Storage

What about leftovers back at home? Most of us have a stash of Tupperware ready to fall out of our cupboards, so obviously use these up rather than putting them in landfill. But if you have a bowl that needs covering in the fridge or a naan bread to take to work the next day, what can you use instead of clingfilm?

Based in the Cotswolds, entrepreneurs Carly and Fran make and sell their own beeswax wraps, using wax from a local supplier. Squares of fabric are covered with naturally anti-bacterial beeswax which safely stores food, and biodegrades in your compost at the end of its useful life:

https://www.beeswaxwraps.co.uk/

and there are plant-based alternatives if you are vegan.

Glass jam jars are great for storing leftover bits of food, and even freeze well if you cool them down in the fridge first. Glass and stainless steel storage boxes are widely available online, and it is possible to use old metal biscuit or sweet tins for many years. Zero-waste Australian blogger Lindsay Miles gives a definitive guide to storing food without using plastic:

https://treadingmyownpath.com/2016/08/04/the-definitive-guide-to-storing-food-without-plastic/

Conclusion

With a bit of forward planning, and the good fortune to find a café or restaurant that is willing to be accommodating, it is possible to drastically cut the amount of plastic involved in eating on the move. In the home, there are easy-to-source, (though sadly not cheaper) alternatives to plastic Tupperware and clingfilm to enable you to store your food safely.

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