Edinburgh Research Explorer

Sharing tableware reduces waste generation, emissions and water consumption in China’s takeaway packaging waste dilemma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Ya Zhou
  • Yuli Shan
  • Dabo Guan
  • Xi Liang
  • Yanpeng Cai
  • Jingru Liu
  • Wei Xie
  • Jinjun Xue
  • Zhuguo Ma
  • Zhifeng Yang

Related Edinburgh Organisations

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)552-561
Number of pages10
JournalNature food
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2020


China has a rapidly growing online food delivery and takeaway market, serving 406 million customers with 10.0 billion orders and generating 323 kilotonnes of tableware and packaging waste in 2018. Here we use a top-down approach with city-level takeaway order data to explore the packaging waste and life-cycle environmental impacts of the takeaway industry in China. The ten most wasteful cities, with just 7% of the population, in terms of per capita waste generation, were responsible for 30% of the country’s takeaway waste, 27–34% of the country’s pollutant emissions and 30% of the country’s water consumption. We defined one paper substitution and two sharing tableware scenarios to simulate the environmental mitigation potentials. The results of the scenario simulations show that sharing tableware could reduce waste generation by up to 92%, and environmental emissions and water consumption by more than two-thirds. Such a mechanism provides a potential solution to address the food packaging waste dilemma and a new strategy for promoting sustainable and zero-waste lifestyles.

    Research areas

  • carbon footprint, sharing, water consumption

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