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Uber Eats partners with Planet Ark in AUS$13M initiative for improved food delivery packaging

#Uber Eats partners with Planet Ark in AUS$13M initiative for improved food delivery packaging

22 Jan 2024 — Uber Eats Australia has announced a multi-year partnership with Australian environmental organization, Planet Ark, to assist restaurants in adopting more environmentally sustainable packaging options in a bid to transition to reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging options by 2030. The food delivery service provider has committed up to AUS$13 million (US$8.5 million) in funding over the next three years.

The partnership seeks to provide clarity to restaurants regarding sustainable packaging, offering a “Sustainable Packaging Framework” developed by the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures. The peer-reviewed framework outlines the company’s approach in Australia and New Zealand to assess the sustainability of packaging used by restaurants on the Uber Eats platform.

It has been developed per Australian and global guidelines, emphasizing material selection and post-consumer collection as essential steps to reduce packaging waste. The framework enlists reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging made from renewable resources as “crucial” for achieving Uber Eats’ sustainable packaging goals.

“There is increasing expectation from consumers, governments and the community to reduce the environmental impact of packaging. With the recent announcement that the federal government will become the new regulator of packaging standards, mandating how packaging is designed, setting minimum recycled content requirements and prohibiting harmful chemicals being used, all ladder up to encouraging developments,” Planet Ark’s CEO Rebecca Gilling says.

Uber Eats general manager and Planet Ark ceo at the collaboration announcement eventUber Eats and Planet Ark will work together to educate people on packaging sustainability.“But while this is a positive outcome, there is still much to do, and there is a clear need to support small businesses — including restaurants — on how to reduce packaging waste best. We’re delighted to be able to announce a multi-year effort with Uber Eats to help them assist their restaurant partners — and to lift the standard for the sector more broadly.”

Education and training
To encourage sustainable practices, Uber Eats plans to invest in educational programs to guide people on proper packaging disposal methods, contributing to the circular economy. The company will also offer investments and subsidies to make sustainable packaging more affordable for restaurants, along with incentives for businesses transitioning toward eco-friendly alternatives.

The announcement follows a successful pilot initiative in the last quarter of 2023, where Uber Eats provided funding access to small and medium-sized businesses to support the purchase of sustainable packaging through packaging partner Detpak.

“We are thrilled to partner with Planet Ark to bring information to businesses looking to shift to more sustainable packaging. We’ve already seen the incredible impact our technology can have on the restaurant ecosystem. Since making cutlery opt-in, rather than being included by default, we estimate eaters have helped reduce the equivalent weight of four jumbo jets worth of plastic forks, spoons and the like ending up in Australian landfills,” shares Bec Nyst, Uber Eats general manager for Australia and New Zealand.

“As we have increased our investment in this area and as we progress our partnership with Planet Ark, we’ll look to identify additional system changes to accelerate the uptake of more sustainable packaging options across Australia. We’ll use our scale and relationships with suppliers to improve the unit economics on more sustainable packaging. Finally, we will explore rewarding restaurants investing in this type of packaging with enhanced visibility on our platform.”

Consumer and regulatory demands
The collaboration is also a result of the Restaurant Pulsecheck Report released by Uber Eats last year, which revealed seven in ten restaurant industry respondents viewed sustainability as the most appealing social cause for customers. Uber Eats plans to invest in educational programs to guide people on proper packaging disposal methods.

Moreover, the initiative aligns with the recent announcement that the Australian federal government will regulate packaging standards, setting minimum recycled content requirements and prohibiting harmful chemicals. The partnership aims to complement these regulations by supporting businesses, particularly smaller enterprises, to reduce packaging waste.

“Uber Eats welcomes the federal government’s recent announcement to regulate packaging standards as it will provide national certainty and consistency for businesses. This is a positive signal for restaurants looking for better packaging options. We know many restaurants are already making significant investments in packaging, and a unified national approach delivering consistency on minimum recycled content requirements will only empower these larger enterprises to continue their investments,” shares Nyst.

“We believe the most significant impact Uber Eats can have in the immediate term is to educate and support small to medium-sized businesses working in the restaurant and catering industry. This is a multi-year journey, and by starting with Planet Ark’s educational resources, we’ll endeavor to help restaurants shift to more sustainable packaging.”

Suresh Manickamn, CEO of the Restaurant & Catering Association (R&CA), expressed support for the partnership, stating: “The R&CA is pleased to support this partnership between Uber Eats and Planet Ark and the positive impact this partnership will have in reducing the waste footprint of thousands of restaurants. Our industry is committed to sustainability and contributing positively to the community and environment. We look forward to witnessing the fruitful outcomes of this collaboration.”

By Radhika Sikaria

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