The Takeaway Packaging Challenge


The launch of Wagamama’s new takeaway packaging, that reduces materials and moves from mostly non-recyclable black to grey plastic, got me thinking about the takeaway food industry’s impact on the environment and what we can do about it. We have seen a boom in street food across UK cities, this is replicated across the west and is really just mimicking the established street food traditions of the east. So this is big. Our London studio is just around the corner of one such street market in Leather Lane. It’s lively and buzzing with people every day, all carrying their plastic bag containing a plastic spoon, and a plastic bowl with a plastic lid back to the office. I asked a one busy stand holder how many servings they did a day, on average they said it was 120, multiplied down the street and over the year that's 159,120 containers just in Leather Lane alone. Multiply that across every street market in the world and every Deliveroo to local takeaway and you can see it’s off the scale.  

One of my colleagues, Jenny has started taking her own bowl to Leather Lane and asks them to fill it, she gets a few funny looks, but they oblige, grumbling about getting the portion right. This is not normal behaviour, many may feel socially awkward doing it, others will find it inconvenient, but if we can nudge people into owning their own takeaway containers it would have a huge impact on single use plastic reduction. This is already happening with coffee cups so why not takeaway containers?  

It's a design challenge. How do we make it socially acceptable? How do we make it more convenient?  But more importantly, how to we make it desirable, cool and Instagramable? The launch of Terracycle’s, Loop packaging system has seen the introduction of durable packaging, owned by the supply chain, for consumer goods. CupClub are doing the same for coffee cups reducing packaging by 40% and halving CO2 emissions. Why not instigate the same system into takeaway delivery businesses, such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats, and have durable packaging dropped off full and picked up empty.

We will be able to build in user benefits to durable packaging and make the home dining experience so much better - building brand value and commercial gain. We’ve had lots of ideas already here at Echo, like stay hot pizza boxes. It worked with the traditional milkman, it would work with the guys on mopeds. Let’s move on from tinkering around the edges of a broken system and start redesigning the whole thing to make it better for people, better for the planet and better for business.