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Sustainable Packaging 2019

It’s our choice: buy and live better with less plastic

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Alexmia

Elisa Tonda

Chief, Consumption and Production Unit, UNEP


Garrette Clark

Sustainable Lifestyles Programme Officer, UNEP

Do consumers want the plastic box that dinner came in? Was it the cheapest way a company could sell a meal? Consumer habits are influenced by what they can afford, what is available, and what is desirable.

In many cities around the world, food delivery is common. Minutes after ordering by phone or online, food arrives with a staggering amount of waste – plastic cutlery, straws, napkins, containers and plastic bags.

One entrepreneur, Pratvadee (Bonnie) Sananvatananont, is changing that by piloting a plastic waste reduction scheme in Foodpanda, a popular food delivery service.

As a winner of the Asia Pacific Sustainable Lifestyles Challenge in the Plastic Waste category, Sananvatananont received a UNEP grant to run the pilot and will receive business and marketing training and a chance to win more.

With over 200,000 orders per month in Thailand, almost all of the cutlery sent out is plastic. Sananvatananont built an opt-in system, where customers can decide if they need plastic cutlery. If only 10% of orders opt out, that would mean the service removes 276,000 sets of cutlery a year. 

What YOU can do to live more sustainably

Everyone’s daily decisions have impacts. Individuals can make more sustainable choices and can ask governments and companies for more information and options.  

One initiative underway is the Anatomy of Action developed by UNEP and the UnSchool of Disruptive Design.

This contribution to the One Planet Network’s Sustainable Lifestyles and Education Programme takes evidence and merges it into a tool kit, outlining everyday lifestyle swaps that individuals can make to live more sustainably.

Made up of videos, social media assets and facts, this how-to tool kit offers the means and messages to change in the living areas of: food, stuff, move (transport), money and fun.

It targets the two to three billion new urban consumers coming online in the next decades, most of whom will be young and will get their information from social media[1].

The easy swaps highlight carbon positive changes and what kinds of information and action can be asked of companies and governments. [2] This efforts contributes to the UN System-wide #ActNOW social mobilization campaign for climate action.

Individuals can and do make a difference

While the climate emergency has finally made its way into the mainstream and public consciousness, plastic cups and bags are indicative of more entrenched, systemic issues, and should not distract from the reality – the need to change the ‘take-make-waste’ economy to one that is circular and green.

Individual actions are fundamental – individuals can and do make a difference.

Earth is ready for a change. Are we?

[1] |[2] Example packaging related asks Food: when buying food avoid excessive packaging and take your own bags; Stuff: Recommend and buy from companies that provide spare parts for repair, take back services or use recycled materials in production; use your consumer power to buy better; ask brands how to take care of products; how they produce and source and their commitment to sustainability.

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