A West Yorkshire restaurant owner is heading up a crusade against plastic waste, replacing 20,000 containers and 4,000 plastic bags a year with stainless steel takeaway tiffins.
Harry Khinda, who runs The Crafty Indian street food and craft beer venue in Bradford Road, Shipley, has now prevented around 50,000 single-use plastic items from blighting the environment since he introduced the scheme just over two years ago.
One of the first restaurateurs in the country to launch a plastic-free drive, he’s now on a mission to increase the impact by urging other restaurant and takeaway owners to get involved.
Harry, whose family comes from Punjab, got the inspiration for the scheme from his father’s decades-old tiffin, which he brought over with him when the family settled in the UK during the 1960s. Dad Gian Singh carried on using the tiffin to carry his lunch to work at the Hepworth and Grandage factory in Bradford, back in the day.
Harry said: “At The Crafty Indian we’re known for doing things differently and we decided we didn’t want to continue polluting the planet with plastic by using takeaway containers and bags.
“We had a good old think as to how we could reduce our use of plastic and this led us on a journey back in history to the place where our parents came from – and we realised that the answer was staring us in the face. Indians have been using steel tiffins to carry their food around with them at work in the mills, farms, factories and offices for generations.
Mr Singh’s iconic original tiffin is still usable which, Harry says, demonstrates the longevity of the product, but the family are hanging onto that one for its obvious sentimental value.
The reusable tiffins, mostly sourced from India, are three-tiered, with room for a number of meals or courses and have a carry handle, which means there’s no need for a plastic bag either. They keep the food hot until the customer gets it home, which usually means there’s no need for reheating.
Customers initially buy their tiffin from the venue for £18 but then, each time someone uses it to collect a takeaway, they get 10% discount on their meal – so it very soon pays for itself and, eventually, they will find themselves in credit.
Harry added: “So far we’ve sold around 550 tiffins and this number increases by around three to four each week, which means our plastic use is reducing weekly at that rate. Even based on these early numbers, if you multiply it over ten years, just look how much less plastic will go into landfill from our venue alone.
“It obviously appeals enormously to our regulars, because they buy the tiffin but then get a discount off their meal each time they come in. About a quarter of our customers are now using tiffins, but this is still a journey we’re on. We’re making great progress and eventually we’d like all our takeaways to be served in this way so we can become fully sustainable.”
To encourage more people to take part, the tiffins are prominently on display in The Crafty Indian. The venue is promoting them heavily on social media and any new customers are asked whether they would prefer to use a tiffin to help prevent plastic waste.
Harry added: “Customers buy into the whole idea because they’re keen to do their bit to save the planet, especially young people who are learning to be more and more eco-friendly and feel it’s all about the small changes everyone can make.
“Now my next quest is to inspire other venues to get creative and recognise their responsibilities as a business to cut plastic waste as well as reducing litter, which is something that has always blighted the takeaway sector.
“If all takeaways and restaurants in Bradford followed suit, imagine the amount of plastic that would no longer go to landfill. Then multiply that by the venues up and down the country and its clear how big this could get.”