The Indonesian do-it-all app Gojek is taking steps to tackle the mounting problem of plastic waste, to which it has inadvertently contributed through its hugely popular food delivery service.
Gofood is now available in 74 cities with 400,000 food merchant partners, most of them small and mom-and-pop eateries previously unserved by existing food delivery services. That adds up to a lot of packaging in a country that is already the second-biggest source of plastic waste after China in the world’s oceans.
Gojek co-founder Kevin Aluwi, speaking at an event to unveil a new corporate logo last month, said some food merchant partners had begun charging customers for plastic spoons and forks, and some have switched to biodegradable or paper-based container bags, while Gofood itself is ready to do its part.
“Starting this month (July), we are distributing special bags to drivers whose Gofood order volumes are high. The bag can contain a lot of food orders, so there is no need to use plastic bags anymore,” Kevin said, responding to a question about how the company aimed to solve the plastic waste problem.
The anti-waste initiatives are in keeping with the spirit embodied by the new logo, which resembles a simple power-on button and has been dubbed as “Solv”. Gojek is aiming to be Southeast Asia’s super app offering more than 20 on-demand services, including grocery shopping, house cleaning, massage, laundry and vehicle maintenance and repair in a single platform.
That’s in addition to the document delivery and motorcycle ride-hailing services that were the first offerings of the company when it was founded in 2015. Now valued at US$10 billion and offering services from food to finance, Gojek is looking to make itself indispensable to customers.
The food delivery service is now available in Vietnam, where it is the second-biggest player in the segment, and in Thailand, where the company has expanded along with its motorcycle taxis and car-hailing services.
Gojek is now eyeing Singapore where its car drivers may have to handle food deliveries because the city-state doesn’t recognize motorcycle taxis, said Andre Soelistyo, president of the Gojek group.
“Gofood has become the largest food delivery service in Southeast Asia, even larger than similar services in India even though our population is only a quarter of India’s,” he said.
But food delivery apps have become so popular in so many countries that excess use of takeout plastic containers, utensils and packaging has become a major concern.
The Indian restaurant portal Zomato, which has a food delivery service that processes 16.5 million orders a month, is a case in point. Founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal wrote in a September 2018 blog post that an “unintended consequence” of the business was that it had increased the use of more plastic packaging material.
All the food delivery aggregators in India combined process around 35-40 million orders a month, he wrote.
“These many orders add up to 22,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste created every month in India. And whether we intend it or not, quite a lot of it ends up in the ocean,” Deepinder wrote.
The Zomato app now offers consumers an option not to include plastic cutlery in their orders and works with food merchant partners to help them comply.
“Much as we care about delighting our partners and our users, we must also care about the impact we have on our planet,” Deepinder wrote.
Read the full story in Bangkok Post