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UK campaign to scrap workers' plastic waste

By Jonathan Powell | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-05-14 23:17

British workers who buy their lunch 'on the go' are generating nearly 11 billion items of packaging waste annually, much of which is not recycled, according to new research published.

Workers are buying takeaway and fast food lunches more than they did five years ago, according to a survey by the environmental charity Hubbub that is encouraging workers to re-think their lunchtime eating habits.

The research of more than 1,200 British full and part-time workers revealed they spend 13.6 billion pounds ($17.6 billion) annually on such packaged items, and use an average of four in each lunch purchase.

The trend is partly down to Britain's evolving food culture, with some workers saying there are more options now or that eating out is more tempting.

Hubbub is launching a new campaign called "the #FoodSavvy Lunch Club" that is urging British workers to bring in food from home to cut down on packaging waste.

The eco campaign launch follows a trial in the East of England that challenged 50 employees,from different companies, to go for a month without using single-use packaging at lunch time.

More than four-fifth (83 percent) said the lunch club helped them reduce single-use packaging, and 67 percent said it helped them to save money.

Hubbub says the trial showed that shops offering a 10 percent price reduction did persuade some customers to come prepared with their own lunch box.

But larger takeaway food chains say customers bringing in containers could present a health and safety risk. Many major chains have already made their own moves to reduce waste.

Pret a Manger offers water so customers can avoid buying it in bottles and has started moving its napkins and cutlery behind the counter, after a trial showed it reduced plastic cutlery usage by 30 percent. Itsu says it is experimenting with putting recycling bins in front of its restaurants.

Hubbub points out that some strategies won't work if customers don't dispose of the packaging correctly. It said "lunch-on-the-go" is often being taken away from the point of purchase. And out on the street or back in the office there isn't often the infrastructure to support recycling and composting.

Trewin Restorick, CEO of Hubbub, said: "Lunch on the go items create huge levels of waste and unfortunately much of this isn't recyclable as it's made from mixed materials or isn't recycled due to contamination from food residue."

"By planning lunches in advance and using up items in your fridge you can massively reduce the amount of packaging you use while saving money by cutting down on food waste – in the UK we could save 58 million pounds a day just by making our own lunches."

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