Over months of lockdown, takeaway food became a treat like no other for many.
Much of it, however delicious, comes with an inconvenient side order – heaps of single-use plastic containers.
Tackling this waste is what is driving a new trial called Naked Takeaway, in Flintshire.
Several businesses in Mold and Caerwys are now asking customers if they would like their meals delivered in reusable tins – which do not require a deposit but will need to be returned later.
“Everyone has loved them. One hundred per cent, I’d say, have said ‘we’d like these tins back’ – they keep the food hotter, they’re better for the environment,” said Chris Ansloos, who runs the Spoons and Forks cafe in Mold.
“We do get a few comments about the washing up, but people don’t seem to mind that.”
The cafes and restaurants are trusting their clients to bring back the durable containers or have them ready to be picked up the next time they order.
“I think there isn’t enough trust nowadays,” said Ms Ansloos, whose customers tend to be regulars, ordering meals such as Sunday dinners and curries week after week.
The scheme is backed by local group Mold Plastic Reduction, alongside Mold, Caerwys and Llangollen town councils, and the tins were purchased with a grant from the Welsh government.
At the Asia Sensation restaurant, also in Mold, Carmen Lim said she would like to see differently shaped containers available in the future. But introducing the tins made business sense, she said.
“The first thing is we save a lot of money on the plastic containers. And the second – it’s more clean. You can recycle it back so it’s more suitable for the restaurant as well.”
‘Eyewatering’ litter problem
Town councillor Andrea Mearns is a co-founder of the group and said the project had grown from the community wanting action on the “eyewatering” problem of plastic waste.
“Mold Town Council organises an annual litter pick and the amount of takeaway containers that was in the litter that volunteers were collecting brought it up as a problem,” she said.
With the project up and running at six businesses in the area, she said she hoped lessons learned during this trial would inform other projects, and that the scheme would be adopted by other towns.
A key factor, she said, was that the reusable tins were grant-funded, and cost nothing to the businesses.
“The biggest barrier, according to the UK restaurant association, is the cost of using environmentally-friendly containers for businesses,” she said.
“So it’s massively important that we’re giving these businesses the opportunity to use something that is reusable and fully sustainable.”