Couriers of an online food delivery company check the delivery boxes. Photo/Xinhua
On June 29, the China Environmental Protection Foundation, a green NGO, the China Cuisine Associat ion, Meituan and about 100 food producers announced the formation of an organization to promote environmentally friendly takeout services.
"Among our 10 initiatives, we are calling for widespread use of eco-friendly packaging for takeout," said Bai Xiangdong, the foundation's director of business development.
"We recognize the risk of pollution and understand that delivery platforms are responsible for controlling it. That means it is necessary for us to take measures such as setting up our organization."
On Aug 31, the day before the court accepted the lawsuit, Meituan pledged to upgrade its takeout app to provide customers with the option of ordering food in nonplastic packaging and without chopsticks, spoons or napkins.
Meanwhile, on Sept 6, ele.me published a plan to offer a similar service and promote incentives to encourage customers to embrace the change.
The company's statement said more measures will be adopted, including forming a new industry association - comprising companies, NGOs and experts - which will focus on environmental protection and call for national environmental standards on packaging in the sector.
According to Bai, from the China Environmental Protection Foundation, most packaging used for takeout food is dumped in trash cans, which means it is processed with other household garbage. He urged greater sorting of waste materials as an environmental protection measure which could reduce the volume of packaging, chopsticks and napkins in landfills, and also reduce emissions of pollutants from incinerators.
"It would reduce takeout pollution, but the work would have to be done by local governments to ensure it is done properly," he said.
In March, Renmin University of China published a report on a garbage-sorting project in Beijing whose use indicated improved energy conservation and lower economic costs.
Song Guojun, a professor of environmental studies at Renmin who led the survey group, calculated that if the project had been in use in 2015 the cost of incineration services in the capital would have fallen by 64 percent, from 4.22 billion yuan ($638 million) to 1.53 billion.
Along with NGOs and large companies, a growing number of individuals are working to raise awareness of environmental protection.
Since 2011, Guo Liang, a physics teacher at a middle high school in Feixiang county, Hebei province, has guided a group of students who make models from waste packaging.
The students found the raw materials in the street, which raised their awareness of pollution and made them think twice about using disposable chopsticks, according to Guo.
He quoted the students' summary of the project: "As individuals, we cannot really make a huge difference in the consumption of plastic, but we should always strive to make changes, no matter how trivial."