A brief guide to Zero-Waste food packing and takeaway

Would you like to create less plastic waste, but you don't know where to start? You can simply replace disposable plastic packaging with easy-to-clean durable alternatives. We collected the some advives as a starting point.

Do you usually pack breakfast or lunch for work? Do you prefer to take away some lunch from a nearby canteen instead? Or are you the one preparing and packing food for the whole family? Here is how you can do it while creating zero waste!

According to estimations the working population of Budapest only throws away over 13 million plastic food containers yearly. It is good to know that it is not prohibited to take away food in your own container. The restaurant personnel might refuse to take your bag into the kitchen area, but in that case you can have your lunch served on a plate, and you are free to move it into your own container in the guest area.

Continue reading for some alternatives to the disposable food packaging! 

We wish to collect some options that are:

  • Easy to clean
  • Made of safe materials (do not contain BPA, BPS, do not release anything harmful when filled with hot food)
  • Durable
  • Can eventually be composted or recycled


You can pack your sandwich into a reusable sandwich wrap or snack bag - the latter is also ideal for carrying sliced fruits or vegetables. In contrast to a lunchbox this type of packaging can be folded when empty so they are easy to carry. The inner layer makes them waterproof, while the outer cotton layer can function as a napkin after having your meal. You can clean the inside with a wet sponge or cloth, if the outer layer needs cleaning as well, you can wash it in the washing machine. For bakery products you can use some textile bags or eventually a clean pillow-case can do it, as suggested by Bea Johnson, the founder of the zero-waste movement. In most bakeries they gladly pack the items in your bag.



If you bring lunch for more people or your meal consists of more meals, you can use a metal food container. We recommend to use metal instead of plastic, as some plastic containers might release harmful materials when filled with hot food. You can use the top contaner on its own for a smaller meal. If you prepare a smaller lunch, you might combine different lunchboxes. Is your colleague getting some lunch for you? Remind them to get the food in your container instead of disposables! In metal containers you can heat your food on the stove or in the oven and you can wash them in the dishwasher.

If you would like to bring more soucy food like a soup or ragout, carry it in a glass jar or a canning jar. In case you would like to save time when you distribute the food, you might like this funnel. If you have ever tried to fill any soup into an average canning jar with an average ladle, you will see the point ;)

If you have your lunch in a place without kitchen equipment, you better have your own cutlery set and some textile napkins with you to avoid disposable utensils.



If you yould like to bring some drinks with you, a water bottle can be handy. You can even save carrying a full bottle, if you know that there will be a tap nearby. In that case you can bring your bottle empty and fill it on the spot, and refill it if necessary. If you prefer to drink from a mug, you can keep one at your workplace, or attach it to your bag, so it would be there for any case. A thermo mug preserves the temperature of your drink, so it is also useful when taking some coffee from a coffeeshop after lunch.


Grocery shopping

The trash created with food packagings starts at shopping. When you go to the shop or to the market you are better of if you think over what you would like to cook, what you need at home. A shopping list is not only useful as it gives guidance during shopping but also because you can avoid impulse shopping, so you will only buy products that you really need. Once you are ready with your shopping list, you can see how many and what kind of containers you will need for shopping. If you go to a shop, you can probably buy less things in bulk, but you can surely get fruits, vegetables, bakery products and probably also some dairy and meat products as well.

What type of food should be packed in which container? Check the below example!

An example for an average shopping list:

  • pumpkin, carrots, vegetables for broth, beetroot - 1-2 large canvas shopping bags
  • apple, tomatoes, pear - 1 medium or large produce bag
  • grapes, plum, peach - lunchboxes (so they are not squezed on the way home)
  • parsley - snack bag
  • milk - bottle with stopper
  • sour cream, cottage cheese - 1-1 box or jar
  • cheese, butter, cold cuts - 3 beeswax foodwraps
  • baked goods - 1 large drawstring produce bag
  • sunflower seed - 1 small jar


Many zero-waste bloggers state, how they grew healthier with unpacked food. We can only repeat, once you start to pay attention to do your grocery shopping in bulk, you will also consume more fresh, seasonal, therefore healthy goods, simply because you avoid prepacked food.

Would you pack your food into something else? Do you make your own containers or have unique solutions? Let us know in a comment so we could learn from you!

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