With the circuit breaker in place, many of us have resorted to plenty of takeaway food. But with the increase of takeouts, F&B outlets are struggling to find enough takeaway boxes and containers to serve their customers. Even packaging suppliers are scrambling to meet the overwhelming demand.
While the supply is slowly coming back, as countries that produce them are easing lockdown restrictions, some F&B operators are still struggling with finding enough packaging. Some are so desperate, they’re willing to pay up to 35% more than usual. Many operators already had to deal with a 5-10% increase in prices for their raw food supplies like meat and rice. Even in these difficult situations, many refuse to increase the prices to their customers.
Here’s how you can help these F&B operators.
Take your own containers for takeaway orders
Not only would this ease the container shortage, you can also help the environment since you would be reducing waste and helping the hawkers incur lower cost. The National Environment Agency said 73,000 tonnes of waste were generated during the circuit breaker period in April, up 11% from March.
Containers like styrofoam and some types of plastics – like plastic utensils – are non-recyclable, so they would end up in landfills and ultimately degrade into microplastics that may end up in our foodchain.
Reuse plastic takeaway containers
Even if you don’t have access to your own containers, you can reuse previous disposable containers provided it’s still in good condition without discolouration or cracks which could bring on bacterial contamination. But not all containers are safe to be reused.
The key lies in the types of plastic: look at their recycling codes (the number that’s inside the ‘chasing rainbows’ – or ‘recyclable’ – icon), according to Daniel Schmitt, associate professor of plastics engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the USA.
Plastics with the codes 2 (high-density polyethylene, HDPE), 4 (low-density polyethylene, LDPE) or 5 (polypropylene, PP) are safest for reuse as they typically don’t contain plasticisers that could leach into food when it’s heated in a microwave, washed, or left in the sun. Even so, some people advise no more than 5-6 times of reuse – after that, you should wash them and place them in the recycling bin.
The most common plastic for takeaway containers is 5 – which is good for hot food, although it degrades when it’s frozen.
Plastics with the codes 1 (polyethylene terephthalate, PET), 3 (polyvinyl chloride, PVC), 6 (polystyrene, PS) and 7 (all other plastics such as polycarbonate, PC) are more prone to chemical leaching – some with carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting properties – and less suitable for reuse.
In general, when reusing food packaging the containers should be used for foods with similar acidity, sugar, fat, and alcohol content to the original food that came in them. Try not to use plastic food containers to store hot food.