In less than three weeks, Tamil Nadu is all set to implement a plastic ban across the state. Announced by Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami on World Environment Day, the move has been lauded primarily because it bans all non-biodegradable and single use plastics of all sizes (microns).
Significantly, for the food industry, the new rules specifically ban the use of plastic papers, covers, plates, cups and straws. Instead, the Tamil Nadu House Select Committee has recommended the use of natural environmental-friendly products like banana leaves and lotus leaves. So how do food delivery services plan to adopt these rules?
TNM posed a set of questions to Swiggy, Zomato and Uber Eats asking what alternatives to plastic they will use, how they plan to engage with restaurants on their platform and, more importantly, about the cost increase for patrons on account of the changes.
In September this year, the company launched Swiggy Packaging Assist, in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Pune, to enable its restaurant partners to be aware of eco-friendly options. It involves a website from which restaurants can purchase a range of packaging materials.
In response to questions from TNM, Swiggy pointed this out and said that the same would be undertaken in Chennai as well.
“This marketplace will be launched in Chennai this month and will provide our restaurant partners in the city access to eco-friendly and innovative packaging materials made of materials such as paper, corn starch and bagasse. We not only want to enable our restaurant partners to be compliant with the plastic ban in the state, but also want to look at addressing the issue at the root of it,” Swiggy said.
Welcoming the plastic ban by the Tamil Nadu government, Zomato said that the company has “always been in favour of the move, as the long-term public good far outweighs the short-term hassles.”
Stating that the company has been closely monitoring restaurant partners since the ban announcement to encourage them to comply with the stipulations, Zomato said, “The decision is for the greater good of everyone in the longer run. In fact, we will soon be launching our eco-friendly packing range. The alternatives to plastic need to be robust, leak-proof and reusable, and an aggregated demand through Zomato will help manufacturers reduce cost of these items to a comparable range with plastic packaging materials.”
The company also plans to incentivise the shift to eco-friendly products by providing compliant restaurants “additional marketing visibility benefits” on the Zomato website as well as the app.
Explaining that these were the initial steps in the sustainable direction, the company also listed the alternative materials it provides.
“This (incentivisation) will help offset any additional cost for partner outlets through higher customer interest. Bamboo products (which also provide employment to tribal communities), corrugated paper with coatings and sugarcane bagasse products will be also supplied,” Zomato said.
Despite best efforts, Uber Eats could not be reached for comment.
Update: After the publication of this article, Uber Eats responded with a comment to TNM's questionnaire.
“We support and welcome this move towards sustainable packaging and are working closely with our restaurant-partners to help them arrive at a cost effective alternative," the spokesperson said.
Uber Eats says that is also "actively engaging with all stakeholders to ensure we comply with the said directive and are able to decisively solve for and work with our partners to introduce sustainable packaging."