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What are the sustainability challenges in the food delivery industry?

Last updated :
March 10, 2024

minutes read

The Green Gauntlet: Sustainability Challenges in India's Food Delivery Industry

Unearthing the environmental impact of your doorstep dosa.

The journey of a plate of biryani, from the stove of your favourite restaurant to your dinner table, is a remarkable feat of logistics. It’s swift, convenient, and can easily fit into our fast-paced lives. But while food delivery apps have revolutionized our dining experiences, they have also stirred up a broth of environmental concerns. From carbon footprints to packaging waste, the food delivery industry faces a series of sustainability challenges.

A Mountain of Waste

To begin with, consider the plastic problem. The wrappers, bags, cutlery, and containers that accompany your food orders contribute to an avalanche of non-biodegradable waste. A single food delivery order generates about half a kilogram of plastic waste - a frightening figure when you consider the sheer scale of the industry. And with plastic recycling in India languishing below 30%, most of this waste inevitably ends up in our oceans and landfills.

Carbon Clouds and the Delivery Dilemma

Then there's the carbon footprint. In a densely populated city like Mumbai or Bengaluru, a delivery executive might cover 70-100 kilometers a day, racking up significant greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions are often amplified by the ‘starving-student syndrome’: where delivery personnel criss-cross the city to satisfy the insatiable appetite of consumers, all the while contributing to city traffic and air pollution.

Food Wastage: The Forgotten Problem

Food wastage is another serious concern. Whether it's a cancelled order or surplus food at the restaurant, a considerable amount of perfectly edible food is wasted each day. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, food wastage is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And as urban India orders more food online, the waste issue is set to exacerbate.

Navigating the Green Path

The gravity of these challenges has not been lost on the industry. Several companies have started implementing eco-friendly strategies. Many are promoting the use of biodegradable packaging, while others are exploring electric vehicles and bicycle deliveries to curb carbon emissions. There are also innovative schemes like 'opt-in cutlery', where customers need to specifically request for plastic cutlery. Furthermore, some are venturing into AI and data analytics to optimise delivery routes and reduce food wastage.

Consumer Power: The Green Knight

But while corporate responsibility is key, consumer power holds the real potential for change. As consumers, our choices can significantly impact the sustainability equation. Choosing restaurants that use eco-friendly packaging, or opting out of unnecessary cutlery and napkins can make a big difference. Likewise, ordering from eateries closer home can help reduce the carbon footprint of your meal.

The Plate Ahead

In the end, it's not about boycotting food delivery altogether, but about seeking a balance between convenience and sustainability. It's about creating an ecosystem where the joy of savouring your favourite meal does not come at the expense of the environment.

We've given you food for thought. Now, it's your turn to act. The next time you order food, remember the environmental costs that come with it. Start with small changes, and encourage others to do the same.

If you found this article insightful, don't keep it to yourself. Share it with your friends and family, and let's start a conversation about sustainability in the food delivery industry. After all, change begins with awareness, and every small step counts towards a more sustainable future.

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