I'm not sure what the actual figures are for the take-out waste the city produces, but there are approximately 10 million people living in New York. Let's say just a quarter of those people have full time jobs that require them to work off site (not from home). And from my experience working in offices, usually 75 to 98 percent of my coworkers bought their lunch daily. But for our purposes, let's say 50 percent of those 250,000 get take out. That means we'd generate waste upwards of 125,000 take-out containers, forks, spoons, chopsticks, and plastic and/or paper bags in a single day. And how many of those folks also get a coffee and roll in the morning? A midday iced coffee?
Sure you can reuse your containers, but considering recent reports of toxicity levels in plastics, who really wants to do that? So the only real solution would be to not use those take-out containers in the first place.
I've often wondered if there was some way to create reusable universal containers that every restaurant would use. Universal sushi bento boxes, universal noodle bowls, universal pizza boxes—you get the picture—with the idea that you could return said container to any participating restaurant. Alternately, they would come pick it up the next time you got a delivery.
I remember getting chajangmyun delivered in Korea several years ago. The delivery guy would pull up on his bicycle or moped with a very utilitarian metal case strapped to the back. From within, he would haul out our noodles and sauces and panchan all wrapped in plastic or metal bowls. A generous couple hours later, he would return to collect the dishes. Like room service, but on a much bigger, better, cheaper scale.
Okay, now you're going to say something about the gas consumed for the two round trips? Well, then, I guess you could always go pick it up, then drop it back off later. Of course, I doubt they still deliver the old-fashioned way now anyway.