Takeout box

Take-Out Food. Reduce and Reuse

July 9, 2018

By Tori Carle, Waste Reduction Supervisor, City of Greensboro


Take-out food. Glorious, delicious, hassle-free take-out food. It can be a savior after a long day when you have no groceries or energy to craft a home-cooked meal for yourself or your hungry family. Just writing this makes me want some naan bread from my favorite Indian take-out restaurant tonight. But, what do you do with the various bits and bobs you get when you order in? Forks, napkins, tiny sauce cups and packets, paper, plastic, or foam containers, chop sticks, oh my!

In the U.S., packaging makes up the largest portion of municipal trash and single-use items account for an additional 10% of trash coming from homes. The production, use, and disposal of packaging and single-use items generates 29% of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide in the U.S., that's more than driving or heating homes. These items are used for a few minutes, or even seconds, before they are landfill-bound, where they will do nothing but take up space forever. Plus, we then need to go out and extract more raw materials to make more single-use items.

A large amount of useless trash is created because businesses just hand it to you. A straw, huge wad of napkins, and handful of condiments you don't really need. So, what can you do to make a difference?

Reduce, reuse, and recycle. There is a reason recycle is the third of the 3Rs. Do you ever get a paper bag inside of a plastic bag when you receive takeout? Ask for no plastic bag. Try going straw-free for the rest of this month, and let wait staff know you do not want one when you order. Don't hesitate to say "no thank you," it saved the business money because they don't have to reorder so quickly, plus they may catch on with this trend soon enough!

Eating out at a business that only uses disposable utensils? Bring your own. There are many options for reusable, portable cutlery. Some take-out delivery services are even starting to offer a way to opt out of things like napkins and plastic ware. They are helping save a lot of unnecessary waste since you would probably be eating that in your home or office and would have access to reusable options.