by Guojun He, Yuhang Pan, Albert Park, Yasuyuki Sawada, and Elaine S. Tan

Rising consumer demand for online food delivery has increased the consumption of disposable cutlery, leading to plastic pollution worldwide. In this work, we investigate the impact of green nudges on single-use cutlery consumption in China. In collaboration with Alibaba’s food-delivery platform, Eleme (which is similar to Uber Eats and DoorDash), we analyzed detailed customer-level data and found that the green nudges—changing the default to “no cutlery” and rewarding consumers with “green points”—increased the share of no-cutlery orders by 648%. The environmental benefits are significant: If green nudges were applied to all of China, more than 21.75 billion sets of single-use cutlery could be saved annually—equivalent to eliminating 3.26 million metric tons of plastic waste and save 5.44 million trees.

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