In a study published in Nature Human Behavior, the researchers found that the more polluted air outside is, the more likely office employees are to use food delivery services. This, in turn, increases the waste produced from single-use food packaging and bags.
“While we see more research on the impact plastic pollution is having on the natural environment, there has been less work trying to understand the human behaviour that drives plastic pollution,” Alberto Salvo, one of the study’s authors, said in an NUS news release. “This is where our study seeks to contribute – finding a strong causal link between air pollution and plastic waste through the demand for food delivery.”
The study surveyed the lunch choices of 251 office workers for 11 workdays each in three Chinese cities known for having levels of smog – Beijing, Shenyang and Shijiazhuang, the release explained. They also looked at data from an online food delivery platform with over 350,000 users. By comparing both datasets with air pollution data during the lunch hour, NUS