The way consumers choose to eat has changed dramatically over the past years. If two or three decades ago, only a few big enterprises were providing their clients with the option to order food at home, nowadays, the food delivery sector is seen as a prominent source of nourishment. This means that current generations are expected to spend a more significant share of their income on already-prepared food compared to those in the past. “Revenue from food deliveries is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2022-2026) of 9.69%, resulting in a projected market volume of US$96.37bn by 2026.” (Statista, 2021).
That means, naturally, that more and more people are taking advantage of the constant development of the food delivery sector. Still, where is the connection between the quantity of food being wasted and the constant growth of this sector?
Right now, restaurants generate approximately 33 million lbs of food waste per year. (Food Print, 2018). This could include the leftovers from customers’ plates, spoiled ingredients, or even food that is not allowed to be kept anymore due to store policies. The advantages of ordering food with respect to food waste, as well as the downsides of it, would be assessed in this article.
Fewer risks to mistaken orders
When using food-ordering apps, consumers are given full control over the ordering experience and are able to tailor the ingredients to their own desires. After someone places an order, the request is routed directly to the people in charge of preparing the food. In this way, the order will accurately represent the customer’s desires leaving no room for mistakes which could lead to food being wasted. Thus, the amount of aliments a customer might not like in a recipe is minimized leaving lower chances for food to be thrown away.
As well as that, the chances that any order mistakes appear due to a miscommunication between the client and the restaurant representatives is kept very low. In this case, meals are saved from being thrown away after consumers’ rejections.
It has become a common trend that people order a small portion of food when they are hungry, enough to cover one meal. That means the meal is expected to be eaten all at once, and does not have time to spoil nor big chances to be thrown away. Clearly, exceptions are also possible if there is a mismatch between the food offered and the customers’ tastes. Nevertheless, it is not very common that an individual places an order that they would not at all consume.
By ordering at home, consumers do not have to physically go to a restaurant everyday but can enjoy the carefully-prepared meals from the comfort of their residences. Having small orders that are placed more frequently could be seen as a way of combating food waste. This does not only help the food not to be thrown away but it could also lend a helping hand to the enterprises: more money is expected to be saved.
What about packaging and delivering consequences?
Based on the information presented above, it is clear that the food delivery sector has an impact in combating food waste. However, how are the effects of packaging and delivering the products affecting the environment? Is there a trade-off we should be aware of?
The reason is quite straightforward: there are downsides when it comes to delivering food which I will shortly discuss. However, the total emissions generated by the actions connected to deliveries are quite small compared to those we would measure if food is wasted. In an optimistic scenario, if people ordered either groceries or more ready-meals at home, the household food waste could decrease by as much as 41%. (Ekaterina Astashkina et al., 2019)
It has been proved that non-sustainable food packaging is indeed a major contributor to food waste. Although the emissions of packaging being thrown away is expected to be smaller than if we wasted the food, restaurants and other providers should bear in mind that plenty of solutions exist. Choosing an environmentally-friendly method of sending the nourishment to consumer’s houses is a quite easy process these days, with recyclable bags, forks and food containers being easily available.
Transportation is considered one of the largest emissions generators worldwide. It was found out that, on average, a delivery worker in the United Stateas emits around 4.6 tons of greenhouse gasses per year, just by delivering food to the customers. (United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2021). That means that a big downside of the food deliveries is, definitely, the way of transporting the food.
Luckily, in recent cases, people are using bicycles, electric cars or scooters when engaging in delivery actions which do not generate greenhouse gasses. If methods such as these become popular enough, we could say that delivering food has a minimum impact on the environment.
In conclusion, a large amount of food that is being wasted in restaurants could be saved by online ordering. Sustainable solutions for reducing the greenhouse gasses that could be generated by packaging or transportation exist. They could be implemented more frequently in order to protect the environment.
Writer: Anda Codreanu
Editor: Majid Zamanshoar, Henry Mitchell
Ekaterina Astashkina, Elena Belavina, & Simone Marinesi. (2019, 03 10). The Environmental Impact of the Advent of Online Grocery Retailing.
Food Print. (2018, October 8). Food Waste Is a Massive Problem—Here's Why. FoodPrint. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from https://foodprint.org/issues/the-problem-of-food-waste/
Statista. (2021, December). Online Food Delivery - United States. Statista. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/outlook/dmo/eservices/online-food-delivery/united-states
Tacit. (2021). How Digital Ordering Helps Reduce Food Waste. Tacit Corporation. Retrieved April 21, 2022, from https://tacitcorporation.com/reduce-food-waste/
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2021, July 21). Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle | US EPA. US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-typical-passenger-vehicle