A group of influential chefs and food experts have written to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to urge him to implement a London-wide ban on polystyrene packaging, citing environmental and health concerns.
Leading names in the food industry including chefs Ed Baines (the founder of Soho seafood restaurant Randall & Aubin’s), Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Theo Randall, Mark Hix, and food critic William Sitwell call on Khan to outlaw the use of polystyrene packaging products in London.
Addressing the Mayor, the chefs claim that the current widespread use of polystyrene packaging contributes to London’s abysmal recycling performance, as demonstrated by the mountains of polystyrene waste that fill up the capital’s restaurants and streets. The chefs also outline their concerns about the “damaging” impact that the non-biodegradable material has on the environment.
Polystyrene is extremely difficult and expensive to recycle, which means that millions of tonnes of the material ends up in landfill sites every year. Packaging made from polystyrene never biodegrades, pollutes waterways, and is manufactured from harmful chemicals like styrene that have been linked to cancer. When the material pollutes waterways and oceans, it is ingested by fish, which makes the issue a particular concern to chefs like Ed Baines, who runs a well-respected seafood restaurant in Soho.
The call to action from Baines and his fellow chefs comes amid global pressure to address the huge environmental and health problems linked to the use of polystyrene packaging. In late June, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to ban many commonly used polystyrene products, including the food packaging, coffee cups, and meat and fish trays used by restaurants and cafes. Similar bans have previously been enacted in cities such as New York, Seattle, and Washington D.C.
Recyclable, paper-based alternatives to polystyrene such as solid board packaging have increasingly been adopted by chefs and suppliers throughout the UK and Europe seeking to improve their environmental performance, in anticipation of similar legislation to that seen in the US.
Commenting on the letter, Ed Baines said: “As a chef committed to sustainability and food provenance, I am very concerned about the use of harmful packaging materials such as polystyrene throughout London. Not only are the mountains of polystyrene waste environmentally damaging and unsightly, it has also been shown to be harmful to health! We should be doing everything we can to get Londoners to use safer, environmentally friendly, recyclable packaging.”
Sadiq Khan’s mayoral election manifesto emphasised his commitment to reducing London’s waste footprint, and outlined his promises to get the city on track to hit the target of 65% recycled waste by 2030. In today’s letter, the chefs call on Khan to live up to these promises and “take us one step closer to a zero waste, clean, green London”.