Plastic cutlery and food delivery apps

Plastic Cutlery via Food Apps: Time to bend the spoon

We raise eyebrows and cringe noses when we talk about meals wherein animals and insects are killed, but what about serving meals in inappropriate cutlery – and through food-delivery apps- which harm the earth just as much!

I remember, my childhood days were quite happening. I got to see new lands even if I was ignorant about every place. From this tiny bucket of whatever childhood memories I still have (and from the pile of photographs that my parents arduously saved), I realised that I loved ice creams – at another extent of passion altogether. From all the places and ice creams I recall fondly, I remember one which fascinated me the most, a Turk woman selling ice creams who asked me to get back to the shop as soon as I was finished with it. We were at the airport, so I had plenty of time to honour her request/order, and I went back with the empty cup. She took the cup and the spoon and started peeling off the silvery covering from it and, hey! – Surprisingly, they were a lovely pair of a chocolate cup and spoon!

It was a wonder wrapped in foil for me while for the nature, on a broad scale, it was a small and different step towards sustaining a better world. That small gesture by that ice-cream lady etched something poignant in my mind that wakes up when I see plastic spoons wielded recklessly everywhere today.

It is a flash back from some South Indian movie I saw when I first came across the quintessentially-southern way of eating. Banana leaf as a plate would not have been discovered at any other part of the world! It makes me proud about the reassuring fact that somewhere in someone’s mind, and table, responsibility and conscious choices still matter – as reusable cups and leaves.

The Millennial Fork

Millennial days have been all about the crazy food-delivery apps that have exploded like a champagne bottle in the last few years. Speed, tick. Convenience, tick. Laziness, ticked. But it would be wrong if I said that we did not see this coming. We are a generation that is seldom bothered about eating right so how could we pay attention to eating the right way. No wonder, prudence takes a back seat when it comes to dumping our cutlery.

As the number of online orders brewed to new temperatures, so did the plastic plates, spoons and straws. They both go hand in hand. It almost feels like, one more eatery-app and our Mother Earth would almost shudder with fear.

Food-delivery apps have been given time till March 31 to stop sending plastic spoons and forks by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), encouraging customers to use their own steel-ware. Not just this, BBMP raided top restaurants and bars for using plastic, recently. It also shut down four establishments and seized 1,074 kg of plastic cutlery.

Currently, about 40 BILLION plastic utensils are used within the United States per year. Worldwide, this becomes a figure at 16 times this magnitude!

Currently, about 40 BILLION plastic utensils are used within the United States per year. Worldwide, this becomes a figure at 16 times this magnitude.

It will, however, be only be after a couple of weeks that we will know whether the ban on delivery-apps that use plastic cutlery and packaging is effective.

Talking about plastic and the harmful effects of consuming the food packed in it is not at all new. Moreover, the effect it has is not only on our body but spills over to the animals and the ecosystem. Imagine, we are all ‘highly educated’ to talk about these issues and at the same time so ‘modern’ to consume it in all abandon? Yes, we do that unknowingly and this makes me question my entire schooling-life now.

But then, let’s not be lying to ourselves – it is too much fun at the same time to get the desired meal at our footsteps!

And while we were busy ordering, The Times Of India revealed how the small forks and spoons that supplement our online orders can build a colossal plastic mountain. Approximately, 35 to 40 million orders are placed every month. Everything was going smoothly until an industry claimed that 22,000 tonnes of the plastic waste comes from cutlery of the food we order so frequently and so ignorantly!

Getting out of the Bubble (Wrap)

Such alarming figures and imminent dangers need to be fixed with an immediate action, without a flinch. The only convenient way to reduce this is by handling the space of eatery-apps because even the strongest pep-talks to the civilians won’t help in an immediate dip in the waste. Eatery-apps must be unrelenting when it comes to strict-no-usage of plastic cutlery or at least have an option so that a user, while ordering, can opt out of plastic cutlery. For the liquid items, glass jars or eco-friendly plastic containers can be used.

And I feel this would give a kick start to control the pollution! The fun thing is we don’t have to really think radical; we need to be just a little more nostalgic. Every answer we need lies in our childhood memories.

Even though, urbanisation and modernisation unfolded multiple times in various parts of India, the ‘kulhard chai’ would anytime beat a five- or seven-star high-tea. This, quite literally, keeps us connected to the geography of our country and has not reported any harmful disposable issues so far. The eco-friendly translate-clay terracotta cups are biodegradable and very affordable; and hence, the reason why they are thrown away straight after usage. This, surely, can be a small step towards manufacturing and using cutlery made in a similar way as that of these ‘kulhard cups’. But with the pros, there are some cons. Making a ‘kulhad’ article requires top-grade fertile soil and producing them on a large scale results in the decline of fertile top soil of many areas which requires thousands of years for replenishment.

Going back to the old school-days, ‘roti’ packed in ‘foil cover’ was a matter of prestige and the ones which had it all covered in ‘cloth’ were looked down upon as tacky. Now, excessive usage of aluminium foil cannot be hidden in the veil of style – because its harmful effects, both on our body and to the nature, shine as loud as the foil. Although it is better than the plastic wrappers and zip-lock bags, but that doesn’t make a foil any less unfavourable. Aluminum foil takes about 400 years to break down. Although it is recyclable, most of it ends up in the oceans or landfills because of our careless actions.

In this reign of fancy but harmful cutlery, there is an alarming need for an alternative to it. Introducing and using edible cutlery is one more small step to begin with – we can use edible spoons and forks and it would not need us to change our habits in a major way too.

Water usage of edible spoons: Less than two per cent of the weight per spoon; Shelf Life: About 2 years

One such campaign of manufacturing edible cutlery was started by Sarah Munir for Bakeys. She said, “The more we create, the more competitive we become with plastic, which is still so prevalent around the world!” The world’s first edible cutlery line is made of three flours: rice, wheat, and sorghum. So many possibilities, if we know how to dig into them.

Of the energy it takes to produce one plastic utensil, 100 sorghum-based spoons can be produced and in comparison to Corn/PLA (Poly Lactic Acid), 50 can be produced. Energy costs are minimised through a semi-automatic process that minimises waste and maximises efficiency. Also, the low usage of water in the production of each spoon (Less than two per cent of the weight per spoon), allows spoons to have a very long shelf life, up to 2 years, while maintaining their crispness. Moreover, these spoons are fully vegan, preservative-free, trans fat-free, dairy-free and operate on principles of fair trade.

The alternatives to the plastic cutlery have already been introduced worldwide. Now that we are slightly more aware about the staggering numbers of plastic waste and their scary effects, it is our duty towards the nature to try to undo what we were doing, knowingly or unknowingly. Because if we won’t, who will? If not now, then when?
One spoon at a time, shall we?

By Hridaya Khatri

(Images in the article: Courtesy Shutterstock)


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