Food Delivery Platforms Sued by Environmental Group Over One-Time Utensils
A local activist group sued China’s three biggest food delivery firms alleging that the takeout delivery platforms caused environmental damage by needlessly supplying single-use utensils.
The Green Volunteer League of Chongqing filed separate lawsuits against Beijing Xiaodu Information Technology, operator of Baidu’s food delivery app Baidu Takeout Delivery; Shanghai Rajax Information Technology, operator of Alibaba-backed delivery platform ele.me; and Beijing Sankuai Technology, operator of Meituan Waimai, demanding that they take responsibility for environmental damage.
The group said the takeout providers don’t offer an option for customers to decline single-use utensils such as chopsticks and napkins, even when the users order from their own homes. This generates a large volume of waste and causes environmental damage, the plaintiffs said.
Beijing No. 4 Intermediate People’s Court accepted the case Friday, according the court’s web site.
Meituan allows users to choose “0” for the number of utensils in the notes section but placed the option in an obscure place, Caixin found. On ele.me, users can choose only “1” as the smallest number of utensils, while Baidu Takeout’s default setting is to provide utensils.
At a panel discussion on the case Monday in Beijing, the environment group said the takeout platforms could easily add a choice for users to opt out of receiving the one-time utensils.
In addition to amended settings, the group asked the court to order the companies to repair and pay for environmental damage, but it acknowledged that damage assessment could be difficult.
Meituan and ele.me told Caixin that they changed their settings after the lawsuit’s filing. Baidu Takeout said all utensils are provided by vendors and the platform has no mandatory power over the issue.
Zhou Ke, a law professor at Renmin University in Beijing, said “no mandatory power” shouldn’t be an excuse for the takeout platforms and they could in fact control vendors' behavior.
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