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Covid-19 impact: Increased use of plastic in takeaway & snacks packaging

Is Covid-19 transmissible through food? According to the World Health Organization (WHO) as of yet, there is no proof that a person can catch the virus through food items or beverages. Nevertheless, it is a highly debatable matter that has significantly impacted the Indian food and restaurant businesses from 2020 till the present.

According to data by the National Restaurant Association of India, both social distancing and food safety concerns have heavily impacted food businesses leading to more than 40% closures in the past fiscal.

Covid-19 has brought noticeable changes in the consumption pattern as well. For instance, instead of visiting a restaurant or a food court, people are more comfortable ordering a takeaway or food delivery service, citing health and hygiene reasons.

Hence, to stay in business, restaurants and snack outlets are meeting consumer demands by investing in food delivery. They are either collaborating with third-party food delivery service providers or initiating their very own service, getting the food to one’s doorstep.

Along with food delivery, businesses are enhancing their packaging practices to ensure food safety and hygiene, shifting mostly to disposable packaging. But are these new changes in alignment with eco-friendly practices? That’s where the concern lies.

Increase in use of plastic for food packaging
There is no denying that the food packaging industry has experienced exceptional growth throughout 2020, and trends continue in 2021. All the leading packaging manufacturers reported up to a 70% jump in the productions of packaging materials.

While that translates well for the food and packaging industry, it has raised new concerns regarding environmental degradation. Why? It is because most of the packaging materials used are single-use plastic, which is adding to the non-biodegradable waste especially in the urban areas.

Why are businesses using plastic and not a greener alternative?
Disposable plastic containers and food packaging are cheaper, easily available, leak-proof and help the food vendor or restaurant abide by the hygiene regulations. Since plastic containers give the impression of sealed and safe food, it fits the consumer satisfaction as well. Nevertheless, it has dealt a severe blow to the government’s efforts to curb the use of plastics.

Is there a way out of this new plastic packaging crisis?
Let’s face it; Covid-19 is here to stay. Even with vaccination, businesses and consumers would have to abide by the safety protocols to prevent transmission of the virus. So, restaurants and eateries will have to intensify their delivery efforts in the coming days, as physical outlets are yet to open up with full occupancy for the consumers. Businesses need to rethink the use of plastic for packaging and opt for a greener alternative with minimal environmental impact.

Here are a few options to try:
Recycled or Agro Based paper is the cheapest alternative to plastic packaging. One can use quality paper packaging for snacks and food items (leak-proof consistency).
Kraft paper is a viable alternative to plastic since it is both oil and waterproof. It addresses your leaking issues.
Another option here is using quality containers to deliver the food. The customer would receive the food and return the container for reuse. It would curb the use of disposable food containers.
What food businesses and restaurants can do is collaborate with paper packaging manufacturers to come up with, economic and eco-friendly solutions to the plastic packaging problem.
Mitigating the initial impact of the pandemic followed by the gradual shift to new business practices has been tough on business across all sectors. The transition commenced in haste to extenuate the immediate crisis. Now, as we ease into new-normal, it’s time to correct the errors committed and innovate sustainable practices towards a safer future.  

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