Is this the UK’s most sustainable takeaway bag…?

Our new takeaway bag has been almost a year in the making and I am very excited that it’s finally launched (call me niche!).

My takeaway bag dilemma began at the start of lockdown; we started to do deliveries for the first time which presented some new challenges around packaging. Our current packaging of brown paper bags and foil containers couldn’t handle being flung in the back of a moped by a busy delivery driver – the containers would leak, and the bags rip under the weight of dhals, kormas and tikka masalas.

Our first solution was to double up the bags (and change the containers, which requires a whole other blog post!). This worked for a bit, until it rained, and we were inundated with complaints of broken bags and curry crime scenes on doorsteps around Walthamstow.

Back to the drawing board…

We needed bags that were water-proof and strong. Paper bags alone were not the solution. I had chosen paper bags in the first place because I assumed they were the most sustainable option – fully recyclable and made from a renewable resource. The basis for my bag research was equal parts sustainability and practicality. The more research I did, the more confused I became about which material was best on both these accounts. I soon learned that paper wasn’t as amazing as I had thought – in fact, producing a paper bag can take x4 the amount of energy needed to produce a plastic bag. And plastic wasn’t as evil as I had thought; it’s extremely lightweight (saving on transport carbon emissions) and durable, meaning that the food waste created by using paper bags in the rain was considerably cut by switching to plastic (even more carbon savings). The obvious issue with plastic is that’s it’s made from oil which is certainly not a renewable resource and it is very hard to recycle in bag format, meaning a lot ends up as litter which has dire consequences for our ecosystem.

So what if the plastic is ‘bio-plastic’? Bio plastics are produced from renewable biomass resources such as corn and potato starch. Moreover, the process of growing the crop to make the plastics offsets some of the carbon used during production. They are also lauded as being compostable however, the reality is that there are only a handful of facilities in the UK actually capable of composting these materials and no way of our customers getting their bags to these facilities! So all in all, bio plastics are only marginally ‘better’ than plastic, despite being double the price!

So, from a practically point of view, plastic was the clear winner – affordable and durable. From a sustainability view point, there wasn’t a clear winner.

And then I heard about Paptic

Paptic is a paper that has the characteristics of plastic. Like paper, it’s made from wood fibres sourced from sustainably managed forests but the fibres are composed in such as way as to give it the durability of a reusable plastic bag. Even though it has the feel of plastic, it’s 100% recyclable and it even decomposes in nature.

And so finally, I’d found the solution to my bag dilemma. One slight issue – the min order was 15,000 bags. But this wasn’t going to stop me – let’s hope the people of Walthamstow are as hungry for curry in 2021 as they were in 2020!