How to eat lunch plastic-free

Recent studies from the environmental charity Hubbub estimate that 11 billion separate items of packaging go in to landfill each year because of ‘grab and go’ lunches. It’s a fairly new trend, with 64% of the people surveyed saying they buy lunch more now than they did five years ago.

Looking around an office at lunch time it’s easy to see why the habit of picking up prepackaged lunch is so popular. It’s quick and easy. You can eat it at your desk or even in the car. There are ‘meal deals’ on sandwich, drink and snack combos everywhere – it may seem like a bargain price wise, but what is the cost to the environment? Each food item is usually packaged individually, often in non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle packaging.

How can you avoid this?

It can be simple but the key is routine. Get in to the habit of surveying what’s in your kitchen. See what you can have for lunch the next day. Plan ahead.

Here are our top tips:

1. Love your leftovers! Take them to work in a container. Remember when you used to go to school with a lunch box in hand – let’s get traditional again. Cook in batches to save time and resources – you can freeze the extras for another time or eat it for lunch the next day. This can help save you a bit of cash as well as your environmental impact.

2. Get inventive with the food you have. Do you have vegetables that need to be eaten? Prepare it the evening before and take to work as a tasty salad or snack. If you have food that is otherwise going to be thrown away it’s a great idea to use it for lunches. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization for the United Nations (FAO), one third of all food produced is lost or wasted and costs the average UK family £810 per year2. Try and make your meals go that little bit further and reduce what you waste.

3. Think about packaging. If you do for some reason need to buy lunch on the go (we all have those moments) think about the food you select and materials that they are packaged in. Consider buying a pack of a product which could be used over multiple days. One piece of packaging rather than five. Pick products in packaging that can be recycled.

4. Avoid meal deals. Do you really need everything in the deal, or just one item?

5. Bring your own containers and utensils. Don’t be shy – take your own container to your favourite food spots for packaging free deliciousness. Who else thinks there should be a discount for taking your own containers like there is for reusable coffee cups?

6. Have an actual sit down meal. Yes, these do still exist! Why not treat yourself and explore some local eateries?

7. Find food that would otherwise go to waste. Check out apps like Too Good to Go, Olio or Karma that will show you meals that need eating nearby – find yourself a tasty bargain and fight food waste.

With a bit of planning you can reduce your packaging footprint, save on food waste and possibly even save yourself a bit of cash.

You’ll find what works best for you, but try to avoid the purpose-built lunches if you can. After all, who needs chopped up apple in a plastic snack bag when you can buy an… apple?

By Tallis Baker

Information taken from:
  1. https://www.packagingnews.co.uk/news/waste-management/lunch-go-habit-generates-billions-packaging-waste-items-14-05-2019
  2. http://www.wrap.org.uk/food-drink
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/14/lunch-on-go-habit-generates-11bn-items-packaging-waste-year-uk
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