Bring your own lunch box to cut plastic waste, say charity


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You may be just getting a sandwich, chips and maybe a cake and coffee, but this weekday lunch can produce four or more junk items.

That adds up: the UK's moving lunch habit is creating nearly 11 billion packs a year, says environmental campaign group Hubbub.

Your solution? More packed lunches.

But if you buy lunch, take your own container to the store and ask for it to fill it out, suggests the charity.

Hubbub surveyed 1,200 office workers in the UK and more than half of them said they were buying lunches for travel more than they used to five years ago, generating an estimated 276 items of garbage per person per year.

"People are saying they are buying food to take away because life is busier," says Hubbub's Tessa Tricks. "It's the feeling that," I'm important and having this in motion will make me do things more efficiently, "but sometimes sitting with crockery and cutlery and enjoying would be best.

Ms Tricks argues that it is generally healthier and cheaper to make a packed lunch, but the charity is also encouraging people to pop a plastic box in their purse next to their reusable cup of coffee if they plan to buy food for travel.

Hubbub says a test in East Anglia showed that offering a 10% price reduction has persuaded some customers to come prepared with their own lunch box.

Lyn McAlister, who runs Cafe 7 in Norwich, says the idea was good for her customers and she continues to offer the discount even now that the trial is over.

"I think we need to keep spreading the word and we expect other companies to come on board, too," she says.

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Some takeaways use recyclable packaging

Larger travel chains say that customers who bring containers can present health and safety risks. But they say they are making other moves to reduce waste.

Some, like Pret a Manger, offer water so customers can avoid buying in bottles. Pret also began moving his napkins and cutlery behind the counter, after a test showed it reduced the use of plastic cutlery by 30%.

Itsu says it is trying to put recycling cans in front of its restaurants, but says it is proving difficult to ensure that waste streams are maintained without contamination. Anything dirty with food can not be sent for recycling.

"We are testing the move to bowls for all orders," says Itsu's spokeswoman. "These, of course, will be washed and reused."

Leon, who offers himself as a healthy diner, says he "would love" to encourage customers to bring reusable containers, but there would have to be "strict controls to minimize the risk of cross-contamination."

Point out that you're already serving your food in cardboard boxes that can be composted or recycled (a removable greaseproof paper liner prevents the carton from getting dirty) and biodegradable cutlery.

However, Ms Tricks from Hubbub points out schemes like this one if customers do not discard the packaging properly.

Lunch-on-the-go "is a minefield of recycling," she says, because, by its nature, it is being taken from the point of sale. And on the street or in the office, there is often no infrastructure to support recycling and composting.


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