China sees record high takeaway users with concerns rising over the environmental impact

China is getting more reliant on takeaways than ever before. Online users of the service had reached 469 million as of June, accounting for nearly a half of the country’s total netizens (one billion), according to China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) on 27 August.

Although inside China is generally free from COVID restrictions thanks to its stringent disease control policies, demand for takeaways has been increasing by 11.9% since last December – the highest growth rate among all online services during the same period.

Thanks to the increase in demand, China’s takeaway industry had grown into a market size of 700 billion RMB ($108 billion) by the end of last year. And food delivery titan Meituan and its rival Eleme owned by tech giant Alibaba had shared more than 90% of the market. A majority (70.6%) of regular online takeaway users prefer Meituan to Eleme out of its cheaper price according to a survey conducted by Chinese news media.

The growth of the takeaway industry had also brought over 2 million new employment opportunities during the year of the pandemic and the number of food delivery personnel had surpassed 7 million in 2020. Over 80% are young labour aged under 40 who switched to the career from manufacturers, partly due to the impact of the pandemic. But others are better off from this booming industry and appreciate the flexibility it offers.

Members of the public have generally recognised the economic benefits that the takeaway industry generates, and many applaud the convenience of the service, especially among working-class people who barely have time to prepare meals due to tight schedules.

Others, however, have shown concerns over food safety and a call for stricter food hygiene supervision. Voices have also been raised as to the environmental issues that come along with the service.

“These plastic food containers are generally not being recycled as waste recycling stations are less willing to take these light materials. Without proper recycling, whether is to landfill or to be incinerated, these hard-to-degrade wastes would become a threat to the environment.”

One Weibo user commented on the micro-blogging site

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