Assessing Climate Impact: Reusable Systems vs Single-use Takeaway Packaging

Eunomia Research and Consulting > Assessing Climate Impact: Reusable Systems vs Single-use Takeaway Packaging

Eunomia modelled the greenhouse gas emissions from reusable takeaway food containers compared to single-use equivalents. We found that, for most types used in Europe, reusing them through a safe, efficient system could generate greater environmental benefits than recycling or discarding single-use takeaway packaging.

For all the convenience that on-the-go food and drink offer, single-use containers extract a high environmental price. EU citizens used more than 33 billion single-use containers for warm drinks and food in 2019, and these figures are rising year by year in tandem with the environmental and financial costs of managing so much waste.[1] For this to change, consumers need easy-to-use infrastructure and systems for returning packaging so it can be washed and reused.[2] 

Eunomia modelled the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the manufacture, use, and waste management of various common takeaway container types, comparing emissions from single-use options to packaging reused in a well-designed system.[3]

The study found that, for all container types except pizza boxes, switching from single-use (both plastic and paper) to reusable ones in an efficient system has good potential to reduce GHG emissions – see the figure below.

Eunomia’s modelling demonstrated the clear environmental benefits of designing robust systems for returning reusable takeaway packaging. Our study strengthened the case for setting higher reuse targets in the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulations (PPWR), although the recent revisions in fact weakened the previous PPWR targets .

[1] Rethink Plastic Alliance 2022 Fact sheet: Reusable takeaway packaging. Available at:

[2] Zero Waste Europe 2022 Making Europe transition to reusable packaging. Available at:

[3] Eunomia 2023 Assessing Climate Impact: Reusable Systems vs. Single-use Takeaway Packaging. Available at: