Nudging consumers to opt out of plastic waste in food delivery

Thailand | 2018

Objective: provide customers with the option to opt out of plastic cutlery when they order food online, and include biodegradable cutlery upon request

We have all been there – you work late and think “I’ll just order food online”. Thirty minutes later and your food arrives with a staggering amount of waste – plastic cutlery wrapped in film, straws, sachets of condiments, serviettes, styrofoam and plastic bags. The rise of food delivery apps has brought a cornucopia of food to our doorsteps, and with it – mountains of plastic waste.

Bonnie Sananvatananont is trying to change that by piloting a plastic waste reduction scheme in popular food delivery service Foodpanda. As a winner of the Asia Pacific Sustainable Lifestyles Challenge in the Plastic Waste category, Pratvadee (Bonnie) Sananvatananont received a grant from UNEP to run her pilot. She will also receive training from global experts, and pitch to win an additional US$10,000 prize to amplify the impact of her efforts.

With over 200,000 orders per month in Thailand, almost all of the cutlery sent out is plastic. Bonnie built an opt-in system, where customers can decide if they need plastic cutlery. If only 10% of orders opt out, that would mean the service removes 276,000 sets of plastic cutlery in a year.

Sananvatananont will also use the grant to trial biodegradable cutlery and food boxes toward making delivery plastic-free, and rolling out any success to the nine other countries where foodpanda operates. It’s a risky move in a market where food consumers are sensitive to hygiene and convenience and have plenty of available alternatives. But the reality is that 90% of food delivery orders are made from home, where consumers have plenty of reusable cutlery. Upon launch however, Foodpanda was widely congratulated for giving consumers the choice. Sananvatananont said, “While progress seems to be taking place in Europe and America, I believe Asia still has a lot to learn about waste reduction. What the region needs is a powerful success story to set an example for how one should reconsider plastic and how simple it can be. As one of the key players in the food delivery service in Thailand and beyond, we realize the responsibility we hold in driving the industry towards more sustainable goals. We realize how much plastic is being used in our product and service, and it’s time to change it.

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