Abi Golland, director of The Street Food Chef Mexican cantinas
Street-food and ‘fast casual’ restaurants are the fastest growing sectors of the UK food and drink industry.
Why? Because they give us an exotic array of world foods at reasonable prices and more often than not, use ingredients from local producers. We’re all into provenance and cutting food miles, aren’t we?
But what is it wrapped in? A polystyrene or foil container inside a plastic carrier bag perchance, with a sachet of plastic cutlery for good measure?
The amount of single-use plastic in the street-food and takeaway industry needs to be addressed.
It’s ironic that Britain’s oldest form of takeaway – fish and chips, wrapped in paper and eaten with fingers or a little wooden fork – is probably the most environmentally friendly.
At The Street Food Chef, we have used compostable plates and biodegradable bags since we launched in 2010.
And in 2018 we decided we had to up our ante and rid our business of all single-use plastic.
The main culprits were disposable cutlery, straws, coffee cups, milkshake cups and small salsa pots.
The cutlery was easy – we switched to a biodegradable and compostable version made of plant starch. So was changing from plastic straws to paper versions.
The bigger challenge has been the coffee cups, milkshake cups and salsa pots. After a protracted search, we were able to take advantage of the most recent development – products made from corn and vegetable starch – via a supplier whose mission is to only use materials that are kinder to the environment.
We are trying to do our bit to bring about change outside of our business, too. We believe that, if companies like us keep putting pressure on the suppliers who are not in line with our goals, some will eventually make the switch.
Our next focus is to remove plastic from our kitchens – those products which arrive with us wrapped in plastic, and the plastic tubs we use to store prepped ingredients.
We also want to help our customers change their plastic habits and have just introduced a 25p discount on takeaway meals and drinks to people bringing their own cup and container.
They can buy our food, without having to pay for packaging they are only going to throw away.