Reusable containers for takeaway and delivery meals are less sustainable – new study

Analysis of a new study by EPPA challenges the notion that reusable packaging is always a more sustainable solution than recyclable, single-use, paper-based packaging

The new life cycle analysis (LCA) study shows that recyclable, paper-based packaging used in the quick service food delivery and takeaway sector offers significant environmental advantages over reusable systems across 12 ‘impact categories’ including climate change, freshwater consumption and resource depletion.

The results show that switching to reusable alternatives would generate 48% more CO2-equivalent emissions, consume 39% more freshwater and demand 82% more mineral and resource extraction.

Analysis of the results by EPPA shows that this is because transporting food and beverage containers back to restaurants after use, together with washing and drying them hygienically, consumes far more energy, water and resources.

The study is particularly comprehensive as it considers the full packaging system of restaurants and is based on primary data. Its results were confirmed by nine sensitivity analyses, and reviewed by three senior, independent experts who concluded: “it is the opinion of the review panel that the report provides useful and realistic information for stakeholders interested in this topic.”

The study was commissioned by EPPA and conducted by Ramboll, a global engineering, architecture and consultancy company. The full study including its methodology description is available for download here.

Written by Dominy Jones

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