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Why sustainability matters more in these turbulent times

For a brief moment earlier this year, the world experienced clear blue skies in Mumbai, fresh air in Beijing, clear waters in Venice and wild elephants strolling into villages in parts of Malaysia. Just a few months earlier, such sights were unimaginable. In the name of economic progress and urbanisation, the planet was sacrificed.

Aside from terrorism, the other preoccupation of leaders and people are issues pertaining to global warming and climate change. The evidence is clear – natural disasters from floods to raging bush and forest fires were tell-tale signs that couldn’t be ignored any longer.

In 2019, one name became etched permanently in the minds of many: Greta Thunberg. She’s the teenager who rallied young people from all over the world to push governments to take firmer action on matters pertaining to climate change. At a time when countries were falling behind in their carbon emission targets, it took the voice of future guardians of the planet to put climate change back at the top of the agenda of world leaders and people at large. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has taken centre stage at the moment, it might have just done climate change and sustainable living a big favour.

How ill is the planet?

The bushfires of 2019 in Australia were one of the worst the country had ever experienced in recent times. Thousands of people and homes were ravaged by it. When people had to escape to the coastal line and wait to be rescued by the Australian navy, little needed to be said and analysed to attest to the severity of the problem.

Prior to COVID-19 hogging the headlines, it was the war of rubbish, literally, that was dominating the news. Some countries had started refusing to accept waste shipped from elsewhere. In 2019, Indonesia shipped back tons of waste to Australia as it refused to be the dumping ground of rich nations. Other countries followed suit too, bringing to the fore how wasteful people living in affluent countries are.

Also in 2019, a sperm whale was found dead with 100kg of rubbish inside its belly. Each and every content found had man’s touch to it, proving our oceans have become a sea of junk. While affluence may bring man the good life, it certainly has led to misery to other inhabitants of the earth.

For the moment, the price man has to pay for his environmental folly hasn’t been profound enough. People still scorn at the idea of not being given a plastic bag for their shopping. While millions are starving in some of the world’s poorest countries, food waste is a major problem in others. The pandemic has somewhat slowed the rot, but the new normal can compound the problem if left unchecked.

The twin terror of takeaway and single-use

2020 will be a year of rapid growth for the food delivery sector. Lockdowns in many parts of the world meant only essential services were allowed to operate. In the F&B sector, cafes, restaurants and even pubs had to quickly adopt takeaways and deliveries as modus operandi to survive. Some actually thrived!

Deliveroo Australia reported that takeaway orders rose by 597% just in April 2020 alone. It went on to conclude that the pandemic has changed Australians’ dining habits. Although some degree of normality has been restored, takeaways and deliveries are people’s staple diets today. With the threat of a second wave looming large – it is already happening in the state of Victoria – it probably makes good business sense for the F&B sector to focus its efforts and resources in enhancing its capabilities and customer experience.

With dining-in now available in most cafes, restaurants and pubs, caution is the word. However, resurgences in Sydney and Melbourne were triggered in restaurants and pubs, so it is not surprising to see some using single-use packaging, including plastic bags, forks, knives and cups. A World Wildlife Fund report indicated that pollution contributed by plastics will skyrocket to 40% over the next decade.

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It’s time to re-imagine

Over the last few decades, people have grown accustomed to the 3Rs – reuse, recycle and reduce. The impact has been good but it’s either insufficient or not fast enough to restore the earth. There is great urgency now. As alluded to above, the pandemic has brought to the fore the need to change the way we live.

Although the 3Rs message remains relevant, perhaps it needs to be preceded by another R – reimagine. Players in the F&B sector which thrived amidst the lockdown were quick to reimagine the dining experience for customers. It was business agility at its best. To this end, we need to look at these businesses in our effort to restore the earth.

A sustainable change

It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Takeaways and single-use plastics are likely to be the norm in the F&B sector for a while, but the environment doesn’t have to suffer. It can be a win-win situation. The answer lies in using more renewable materials that have been certified to be carbon neutral and compostable.

Today, it isn’t difficult to procure such packaging materials. In fact, we are spoilt for choice. Sizes, shapes and forms have increased tremendously as players in the industry continue to innovate. But it is a significant attitudinal change that must happen at all levels, in communities, societies and governments. Once again, we need to reimagine the planet and how we live, just as we did a few months ago.

Get in touch with us to learn more about the range of sustainable takeaway packaging materials we offer.

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