When the air outside is bad, office workers are more likely to order food delivery than go out for lunch, which in turn increases plastic waste from food packaging, according to a study by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Associate Professor Alberto Salvo from the Department of Economics at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and an author of the study, said, “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 behaviour that drives plastic pollution. 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. Air quality in the urban developing world is routinely poor and in the past decade, the food delivery industry has been growing sharply. The evidence we collected shows a lot of single-use plastic in delivered meals, from containers to carrier bags.”
The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.
Air pollution drives demand for food delivery services
The NUS team, including Assoc Prof Liu Haoming and Assoc Prof Chu Junhong, focused their study on China, which is among the world’s largest users of online food delivery platforms, with 350 million registered users. An estimated 65 million meal containers are discarded each day across China, with office workers contributing over one-half of