Plastic waste is a growing environmental concern. The food delivery industry is criticized for its environmental impact, especially its current use of plastic packaging. At the same time, the environment impacts the industry. We show that air pollution is a behavioural driver of food delivery consumption in the urban developing world.
Our hypothesis is that individuals are more likely to order delivery when their personal cost of exposure to the outdoor environment rises. We surveyed office workers in three Chinese cities and found that an increase of 100 μg m–3 in particulate matter pollution (PM2.5) raised the propensity to order food delivery by two-fifths of the sample mean.
We used photographic evidence to quantify disposable plastic in meal delivery. Data from an online delivery platform with a broad customer base indicate a smaller, but still substantial, causal link between air quality and food delivery. Overall, air pollution control brings plastic waste co-benefits.