The best change starts in tiny (reusable) packages

By Tom Tanner, SRA 

Too often as an individual, the enormity of climate change and the biodiversity crisis can feel overwhelming. “How can anything I do make a difference?” is the question many of us ask. The honest answer is that one action by one individual won’t be sufficient. However, if lots of individuals start doing the same positive thing or indeed stop doing something harmful, that’s when it starts to make a genuine difference and you can scale up change. That’s essentially what the Food Made Good movement is all about. 

The evolution in packaging is a fantastic example where we’re really starting to see a difference, perfectly illustrated in the recent announcement by Just Eat that it’s partnered with CLUBZERO (who readers may know better under their previous name – Cup Club). Essentially, Just Eat will be running a three-month trial in six takeaway providers, using reusable packaging – so customers can choose the reusable containers, pay a deposit and either drop them off or have them collected the next time they place an order.  

It’s not a unique concept. Erstwhile Food Made Good movers and shakers have been all over tiffin tins for some time now, Thali Café in Bristol pioneered this approach and built a large and loyal following. SpiceBox in East London picked up the baton and have enjoyed a similarly positive response from their customers. Dusty’s in Cardiff were the first to offer their pizza loving clientele reusable metal boxes. 

With the massive increase in delivered meals in recent years, especially over lockdown, packaging has become a huge issue. 

Many in the SRA community, like Lussmanns and Dishoom, worked hard to ensure that when they performed the pandemic pivot to delivery, their packaging was as good as could it be – made from recycled materials and at the very least compostable, continuing to look for better solutions. 

It’s only a year since the government ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds came into force in England. Pioneers in the sector had moved away these single-use items already and others had already taken giant stride further. Boston Tea Party, for example, the west country café group, stopped serving hot drinks in single-use cups.   

Whereas ten years ago you might well have been met with a surly look asking for a coffee

shop employee to fill your reusable cup or water bottle, now it’s the norm thanks to the likes of BTP and initiatives like Refill, which now boats almost 200,000 participating locations. Bottled water in restaurants has also undergone something a revolution with filtration becoming an environmental and commercial solution for many, thanks to the likes of Belu

It’s when big businesses like Just Eat picks up and runs with the ideas trialled by SMEs that we start to see real impact. Business generating its own change at scale, matched with Government mandated change, plus behaviour change, is a potent mix. Last month’s announcement of a planned ban on single-use plastic plates, cutlery and polystyrene cups, could be transformational, so long as the infrastructure is well and truly in place to cope with the recycling. Do look out for the official consultation on these measures. 

We’ve come a long way in the last ten years, there’s a long way to go. But news of trials like this offer real hope that we are heading in the right direction and collectively making a genuine difference, as we all working together to make every meal served out of home food made good. 

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