Estimation of waste generation by food delivery platforms in India
Updated: Aug 18
Single-use plastic products include a diverse range of commonly used fast-moving consumer products that are discarded after having been used once for the purpose for which they were provided, are rarely recycled, and are prone to becoming litter.
In 2019 the European Union reported that 80 to 85 % of marine litter, measured as beach litter counts, is plastic, with single-use plastic items representing half of it (50 %). The majority of these items are connected directly with the food service packaging industry. (DIRECTIVE (European Union)904, 2019).
In India, since 2017 the online food delivery market has seen a growth of over 15% per annum. The major food delivery platforms deliver more than 95 million meals a month. As this industry grows, the associated food service packaging with it grows. There are no exact estimates of the food packaging waste available with both government or web-related sources. We estimate the food packaging waste by estimating the average waste per order and the number of orders delivered in a month.
Based on average monthly orders of 95 million delivered and packaging per order of 115gms to 150gms, we estimate monthly waste of 11000 tonnes to 14000 tonnes
The data for the number of food deliveries per month by major food delivery platforms (Zomato, Swiggy, Uber Eats, and Foodpanda) is collected from multiple sources and an approximate value shows Swiggy and Zomato together generate around 80mn orders and other platforms generate around 15mn orders a month.
To estimate the amount of food service packaging waste per order, we approximate the weight of each of the commonly used in packaging items whenever the food is delivered to at home or at a workplace.
A similar analysis in China titled "Packaging waste from food delivery in China’s mega cities" by Guanghan Song estimated that in the first half of 2017, 4.6 billion packaging orders were delivered generating approximately 6 lakh tonnes of food packaging waste. This gives average waste per order as 140 to 150 gms.
4.6 billion orders
6,00,000 tonnes of food packaging waste
(In the first half of 2017)
Online food delivery has emerged as one of the most fast-paced developments in the E-commerce space of our country. This sector has revolutionized the entire outlook towards the food industry as consumers now have the privilege to choose from a wide variety of cuisines, anywhere, anytime from a range of restaurants listed online. The growing urbanization with easy access to smartphones has accelerated the growth of the online food delivery market.
However, with the rapid growth of the online food delivery market, there is a significant growth in the amount of foodservice packaging waste generated and we can’t keep our eyes closed to this situation. Most of this waste is single-use plastic which can never be recycled and it will remain on the face of the earth forever.
Thus, certain steps need to be taken on an urgent basis to curb the alarming situation arising out of the massive waste generation. There is some good news that major food delivery platforms have woken up to this fact and are now doing something about it. Swiggy launched “Swiggy Packaging Assist Program” and Zomato has started to provide customers with an option to choose “no cutlery” while ordering the food, in order to reduce plastic content in their packages.
Authors - Nishith Jardosh & Kanishka Sinha