Due to the pandemic, restaurants are forced to shut down their service. Many of them now sell their dishes as take-away or provide the possibility of delivery to keep up their sales. However, this means that the food and drinks need to be packaged.

The to-go packaging waste amounts to around 356 thousand tons in Germany yearly. Each German citizen produces more than 200 kg of packaging waste per year. Every hour around 140.000 to-go cups are used in Germany. To-go cups alone make up around 55 thousand tons of waste in Germany. Due to the pandemic, the packaging waste of private households has increased by around 10% since March. Most of the cups are made from cardboard including a plastic coating, around one third is completely made from plastic. As they are usually thrown directly into the next rubbish bin, the raw materials in the cup, such as wood and crude oil, are thus lost forever after only a short period of use. Moreover, half a liter of water is needed to produce the paper for one cup which is more than the cup can take as drink. The problem is that the material mix of to-go packaging is hard to recycle. Due to the plastic coating, it doesn’t soak up liquids and thus the paper fibres to not fully dissolve. Thus, it can only be recycled partly. Even worse, if one-time usage packaging is not thrown into the correct rubbish bin (gelber Sack), they remain in our environment for many decades like plastic bags.

As a consequence, the government takes action: they are prohibiting one-time usage plastics from July 2021. However, we can start already now by changing to reusable solutions if we take food or drinks to go. There are many companies evolving to provide an alternative for the ecologically questionable current solution. We want to encourage you to take action yourself, as every buying decision represents a vote for sustainable solutions. If you know how, it is actually quite easy to improve your personal impact. To do so, check out companies like Recup/Rebowl Relevo, or Vytal. By collaborating with different restaurants, they are providing reusable packaging for your food and drinks. The food boxes are better for our environment in contrast to one-time packaging after a usage of 10 times, so make sure to bring them back. Reusable box providers state that the return rate is 98%, which is higher than for bottles. Usually there is another trick: Ask your favorite restaurant if you can bring your own cup or box when you pick up your food. Some might refuse it due to COVID-19 – but some are super happy about that.

Let’s take a small new year challenge and try to avoid to-go waste for the next month! Comment below your tips & tricks and how this works for you! Do you have any other ideas on how to fight packaging waste or know any other solutions?

We consider new ventures for counteracting the current challenges of our society and environment as essential for a sustainable development. Only with new innovations we can defy these social and environmental challenges of our society. By connecting, educating, and empowering the innovators of tomorrow at the CDTM, we want encourage sustainability through the CDTM Climate Club to be part of the future. A great and sustainable future. This post was written by the CDTM Climate Club which is a student initiative to foster sustainable development in the CDTM Ecosystem. For any feedback or input reach out to us via climateclub@cdtm.de.