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The growing plastic waste in our environment has become a cause of great concern. It is essential to call people’s attention to reduce and eliminate plastic waste and safeguard our environment from pollution. Plastic waste is adversely affecting the lives of humans and wildlife by polluting our oceans and the surrounding environment. It is vital to bring awareness about reducing plastic consumption and increase plastic recycling to overcome environmental pollution.
The food industry is commonly blamed for using plastic packages and aggravating environmental pollution. However, recent studies reveal that the environment is also impacting food delivery consumption in a big way. Recent studies imply that people are more likely to order food when they find that they may be impacted by outdoor exposure to the environmental pollution.
Research done in three Chinese cities showed an increase in PM2.5 (Particulate Matter pollution) raised people’s tendency to order food delivery. PM2.5 is the short form for fine particles that are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. The study used photographic evidence to find out the amount of disposable plastic in food delivery. The data obtained from an online delivery platform indicated a significant connection between air pollution and meal delivery. This implies that control on air pollution could help to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated.
The National University of Singapore recently made a study, which indicated that urban air pollution causes an increase in plastic waste. Workers in urban areas preferred to remain indoors on smoggy days and had lunch delivered to their offices. The packing material used for delivering the food was mostly plastic, thereby contributing to a rise in plastic waste. Experts point out that most studies focus on the impact of plastic pollution on the environment, but there are hardly any that try to comprehend what kind of human behavior causes the pollution.
Studies were conducted at three Chinese cities Shenyang, Beijing, and Shijiazhuang, known for high air pollution levels. It was found that food delivery services were very popular, and there are more than 300 million registered users. Office workers contributed to more than half of the total of nearly 70 million containers discarded daily in China. The experts say that, in recent decades, air quality has been rapidly deteriorating in the urban developing parts. This has triggered the growth of the food delivery industry.
The food ordering data was collected from two sources. The first one was from around 250 workers in the three cities whose lunch choices for 11 days during a specific period were surveyed. The other data was from an online food delivery service from whom more than 3 million food orders were placed.
The studies conducted on the behavior of office employees during high air pollution showed that:
1. There is a strong connection between higher levels of pollution and a rise in food orders
2. Statistics imply that a 100 µg/m3 rise in air pollution causes around a 7% increase in orders from various market segments
3. When pollution rises to 100 µg/m3, there are increased chances of office employees ordering food delivery than other people
4. At home, people have the option of preparing food at home and not go out. But, when there was haze or smog, office workers found food delivery as the best option to avoid exposure to pollution
To assess the plastic waste generated by food delivery, researchers asked office workers to provide photos of the food they bought at restaurants or got delivered. The photos helped them get an idea of the plastic packaging used for wrapping food. The study’s findings showed that an average restaurant meal used about 7 grams of plastic, and takeout food used nearly 55 grams. There were about 2.8 single-use plastic implements in an average takeout meal. The researchers said that with a 100 µg/m3 rise in pollution, plastic usage increased by about 10 g. Based on the food orders analyzed, the researchers concluded that a 100 µg/m3 increase in air pollution in a day meant more than around 2 million orders for takeout food. This would consequently cause the use of around 2 million plastic containers.
Plastic waste is a global problem that has increased enormously in the last few years. It is causing irreversible damage to our planet, and we, as responsible citizens, need to be aware of its magnitude. Concrete steps are needed to reduce the environmental pollution and create a cleaner and greener environment.
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