Plastikreduziert durch die Corona-Zeit

Support the local gastronomy in an environmentally friendly way

Seven weeks ago, our lives changed. There is no need to go into detail about the effects; everyone feels them on their own body. Our head is all about home office or home schooling - if we haven't lost it somewhere in between. Besides worrying about the future, short-time work or our own company, we notice that the environment is recovering. CO2 emissions are falling, rivers are becoming clearer and birds are getting louder.

Only the waste is higher due to being at home a lot.

Waste disposal in Germany, for example, faces particular challenges due to the effects of the corona virus. The Federal Environment Ministry appeals to us citizens to avoid waste and separate it correctly. "It depends on each individual, so that residual waste bins do not overflow and hygiene rules are observed", the BMU wrote in a press release.

The sustainably thinking consumer may get into a little conflict as a result: Closed restaurants offer food outside the home and especially now it is important to give special support to local businesses. People like to do this and apart from that - a ready-made meal is also very useful in the home office.

"One trash to go, please"

The year is 2017 - two years before Corona. Eating out was already a problem before the crisis. This year, the Gesellschaft für Verpackungsforschung (GVM) carried out a data collection on behalf of NABU. The result: in 2017 346,419 tonnes of waste were generated for to-go packaging and disposable crockery. Boxes, trays and plates account for the largest share of this and add up to over 155,000 tonnes of waste. Pizza boxes rank second with 50,000 tons. If no regulatory intervention in the market were to take place, this would mean a significant increase in tonnages, concludes GVM.

NABU sees the reasons for the increasing waste volume in the social, technical and cultural areas. Between 2005 and 2015, sales in self-service restaurants grew by 110 percent, while those of cafés and snack bars almost tripled. Convenience has also become increasingly popular. For restaurateurs, one-way simply has cost advantages over reusable packaging, and technical developments are making the business of delivery services easier. And we consumers are more or less consciously participating in the rising waste trend through chronic lack of time or convenience; so the quantity of packaging is growing along with out-of-home consumption.

This flood of packaging flows, among other things, into the sea and much of it is incinerated. Henning Wilts of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy says: "We have a resource and recycling problem, not a waste problem. We are far from a closed loop." Any reusable system with regional delivery and collection is better than disposable.

The issue of "waste and reusable" is also on the political agenda. The EU directive on disposable plastics is intended to reduce consumption. However, it is rather the consumer behaviour that is problematic; one-way is simply practical. By using reusable materials, a middle way could be created that does not require a major change in behaviour.

Katharina Istel is a consultant for resource policy at NABU. She demands that the Federal Government implements the directive ambitiously. "Only with active promotion of reusable products will disposable plastic plates not simply be replaced by disposable paper plates when they are banned by mid 2021 at the latest," Istel explains. Preventing waste through reuse is more environmentally friendly than changing the materials used for disposable plates; even alternative bio-based materials are not a solution.

More ways, less waste - despite Corona

Sven Witthöft and Tim Breker from Vytal have recognized the problem and last September started a digital reusable system for plastic trays to reduce the amount of waste in the take-away. The start-up supplies supermarkets, canteens and catering companies with containers in which customers can take food with them. After use, they are returned to the participating businesses and cleaned. The caterers can pay for the dishes per use or flat rate, no deposit is charged.

The boxes are germ-free and can be disinfected from the outside as they are 100 percent leak-proof - which is particularly important for our current situation.

Despite the virus, traditional delivery services are doing well. In mid-March, delivery services were used 12 percent more frequently than usual. Sonja Grimminger from the Federal Environment Agency says: "The lunch break, during which food is often delivered, is no longer necessary because of the home office, but it is now a private time. Many restaurateurs now also offer a delivery service. This will probably lead to more disposable food."

The dichotomy between waste, solidarity and hygiene can be quite unsettling. What about hygiene regulations in these times? Is it still possible to pick up your food in containers you brought with you?

First of all, food is not currently seen as a carrier. The German Food Association (Lebensmittelverband Deutschland) has published a leaflet that gives advice on the hygienic handling of reusable containers (or your own) ("Reusable containers - hygiene when handling customer-owned containers for serving or self-service food"). This guideline has been tested and recognised by all German federal states. It includes legal aspects as well as the necessary operational requirements. In this leaflet, food companies receive concrete suggestions for action on how to handle and fill customer-owned containers hygienically and properly. The information contained in the leaflet is intended to support the willingness and competence of the companies to offer an appropriate service to their customers.

Dr. Sieglinde Stähle from the scientific management of the Food Association summarizes it as follows: "Packaging has an important protective function for food, but many are looking for alternatives to disposable packaging and are happy to make their contribution. Sustainability and resource conservation are also key concerns for the food industry, which is why customers can bring their own containers in which they can transport the food home. In general - and especially in the times of measures against the Covid 19 epidemic - it is essential that the behaviour and processes are hygienically sound, so that food safety is guaranteed and the entrepreneurs fulfil their duty of care".

So the green light for own containers and the good conscience. And then there are creative and inspiring ideas for environmentally friendly alternatives:

Going for a virtual drink: A few homepages offer the possibility to support real clubs and locations with a small donation with a virtual drink (e.g., or The beverage menu includes a spectrum of one drink for 2,50 EUR to 100,00 EUR ("The evening is on me"). Just take the drink out of the fridge and pay (online).

Row to cook: How about cooking for friends or family? Soups, casseroles and the like are ideal for cooking in large quantities. Depending on the time frame or days off, you can take turns and have healthy, home-made delicacies delivered (or left outside the door) by friends.

Of course we can't say what the next few weeks will bring. But we at bambusliebe will continue to supply you - as usual with plastic-free and sustainable products and we encourage you to support local businesses.