Circularity in the informal eating out sector: Challenges and opportunities!

The informal hospitality industry, also known as the Informal Eating Out (IEO) sector, still has a lot to gain in terms of circularity and sustainability. A recent study by consultancy Kearney has shown that there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution to achieving circularity. Europe's goal of having a fully circular economy by 2050 requires a tailor-made approach. What are the challenges and opportunities for this sector on its way to a circular economy? We discuss that in this blog!

Hoe bereiken we circulariteit in de IEO-sector?

The impact of the IEO sector on the environment

Fast food chains, food trucks and other takeaway establishments are popular with consumers because of their convenience and fast service. However, the growth of this sector also has negative consequences for the environment.

The informal hospitality sector is responsible for a significant amount of waste and CO2 emissions. The packaging used to serve food and drinks, such as plastic snack trays, contribute to the growing plastic soup of our oceans and forests.

Another major environmental problem is food waste. Guests are often incentivized to order large portions, resulting in large amounts of unused food and swill waste that often ends up in the trash. This causes an unnecessary loss of the resources used to produce the food, such as agricultural land, water and energy. And that is of course a shame!

Switch to reusable packaging?

There is a lot of talk about switching to reusable packaging, but how feasible is this really? The use of reusable packaging has consequences for food safety and the consumer experience.

Food safety

When we switch to a model where reuse is the norm, this entails an increased risk of unwanted bacteria or allergens. At least, if the used packaging is intended to end up back at the restaurant. Consumers take the reusable packaging home with them and may use it for other purposes, such as storing things. This means that restaurants face additional costs to replace damaged packaging or packaging that poses a risk to food safety.

Consumer experience

A switch to reusable packaging in fast food restaurants can mean a big change for the consumer experience, and unfortunately not always for the better. After all, consumers have to return the reusable packaging after use and look for the right collection points, which can take a lot of time. In addition, it entails extra costs, for example for washing the packaging.

The solutions for a circular future: Paper disposable packaging more sustainable than reusable packaging!

How can we achieve Europe's ambitions to meet circularity without generating negative economic, environmental and consumer outcomes? The European Union's current proposals to achieve circularity are not enough, according to the research. There is a need for a comprehensive approach.

Fortunately, reducing the impact of the informal hospitality sector on the environment is not an impossible challenge. It is clear that change is needed in the way this sector produces, packages and sells food and drink. Improving processing/recycling gives the best environmental results in the short term. We often assume that reusable products are more sustainable than disposable paper packaging, but that turns out not to be the case. When you use packaging in your (catering) business, it is important to take into account the entire life cycle of that packaging. This is how you make the most sustainable choice!

By striving for more sustainable solutions, as below, the IEO sector can ultimately contribute to a circular economy:

  • The use of biodegradable packaging
  • The use of packaging without plastic
  • Reducing food waste by reducing portions
  • Donate leftover meals to food banks
  • Promoting locally produced food

TakeAware contributes to a circular economy

At TakeAware you will find (more) sustainable alternatives to disposable packaging that are made from various materials. The majority of our products already contribute to a circular economy, in which waste is recycled and converted into new packaging. We are determined to offer our customers an assortment that is as environmentally friendly as possible. Do you also want to make a positive impact on the environment? View all our disposables without plastic or go to our full range! Whether you are looking for biodegradable packaging, paper packaging or reusable packaging, we have it all!