A study links smoggy urban days to an increase in food deliveries and plastic waste.
A new study from the National University of Singapore asserts that urban air pollution leads to more plastic waste.
On smoggy days, urban workers wishing to remain indoors often have lunch delivered to their offices, and the packaging in which the food arrives adds to the plastic waste stream.
When air quality is poor, people working in offices order significantly more takeout delivery.
Study author Alberto Salvo of the university’s Department of Economics says:
“Plastic waste is a growing global environmental concern. 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 behavior that drives plastic pollution.”
The study focused on three Chinese cities that experience high levels of air pollution: Beijing, Shenyang, and Shijiazhuang. Food delivery services are popular in China, with 350 million registered users. More than half of the 65 million food containers discarded each day in China are thrown away by office workers.
According to Salvo, “Air quality in the urban developing world is routinely poor, and in the past decade, the food delivery industry has been growing sharply.”
The study appears in Nature Human Behaviour.
The study rated pollution levels according to PM2.5 measurements. PM2.5 is the abbreviation for “fine particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.”
In the United States, the maximum acceptable 24-hour ambient air quality