On September 1st, the Beijing Fourth Intermediate People’s Court formally accepted a lawsuit by the Chongqing Green Volunteers Union (重庆市绿色志愿者联合会), suing three of China’s most popular food delivery service platforms, Baidu Food Delivery (百度外卖), Meituan Food Delivery (美团外卖) and Eleme Food Delivery (饿了么), for their environmentally harmful practices.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiff appealed to the court to order the three companies to change their management model which damages the environment and wastes resources by providing every customer with disposable dishware and plastic bags, without asking them whether they need these products or not. The plaintiff claims that the three food delivery services should set options in their apps to allow customers to choose whether to use disposable dishware and plastic bags or not, and to charge fees for these products in order to reduce this unnecessary waste. The Chongqing NGO also demands that the three food delivery platforms take responsibility to repair the damage they caused to the environment.
Xugan, project manager at the Chongqing Green Volunteers Union, stated in an interview with Beijing News (新京报) that the NGO does not object to the production and sale of disposable dishware, and they only hope that every set of disposable dishware should actually be used, rather than just thrown away. The activist also pointed out that the reason for this unnecessary waste is that the apps of these food delivery services do not allow the customer to opt not to receive any dishware, and people always receive it regardless.
The three food delivery companies have all responded to the lawsuit by changing their practices. All of them now provide “no need for disposable dishware” options in their apps’ ordering page. Their PR departments have also made statements regarding the case, assuring that they are aware of the problem and are looking for environmentally-friendly solutions. A senior PR representative for Eleme called Zhouyi gave an interview, in which she said that the customers who choose not to use disposable dishware through the company’s app are still a small minority.
Zhouyi also claimed that dealing with pollution cannot be left up to food delivery companies alone; it is also important to improve the techniques for making environmentally-friendly disposable dishware and make the public more aware of the need not to be wasteful. The senior PR managers from Baidu and Meituan Food Delivery also claimed that they see this lawsuit as a warning and inspiration for them to reflect on their own problems, improve and take up more social responsibility in the future.