Anyone who has travelled through Mumbai would be familiar with the legions of delivery men, called ‘dabbawalas’, crossing the chaotic city at midday to deliver hot food in stainless steel tiered boxes they transport on bicycles or handcarts.

It is this iconic delivery network which has inspired the recent launch of Jaideep Venugopal’s plastic-free, reusable lunchbox delivery service in Malta.

The service involves a lunchbox delivery and return system.

Four-tiered or two-tiered stainless-steel containers, called tiffin boxes, replace the plastic containers used to deliver the food ordered from Mr Venugopal’s Sliema Indian restaurant, aptly called The Tiffin Box.

The idea is that each time the customer orders food they give the delivery man the boxes in exchange for the new ones filled with the food they ordered.

The order will also come free of all the other takeaway paraphernalia that normally accompany a delivery, Mr Venugopal assured.

“You just receive the food in the containers and a paper bag it is delivered in”.

When making their first order, customers leave a one-time €9.50 deposit to ‘adopt a tiffin’, in which they can pack enough food for two. They can then retrieve their deposit at any point when they decide they want to stop using the service, by returning the boxes.

The objective is to use tiffin boxes everywhere to reduce waste

At the moment, Mr Venugopal is only offering the service in select localites – Ġżira, Ta’ Xbiex,  Sliema, San Ġwann, and St Julian’s, but he plans to soon extend to other parts of the island.

More than that, he envisages a day when deliveries all over Malta will become zero waste.

“The objective is to be using tiffin boxes everywhere to reduce waste. It’s no use just talking about reducing plastic and doing nothing about it.

“We have people who are very addicted to convenience, and the truth is you can’t keep on throwing things out.”

While he has aspirations to launch a tiffin delivery service independent of his restaurant, Mr Venugopal does not want to get ahead of himself.

“Everything will happen in due time,” he said.

So far, the Maltese who have tested out tiffin boxes since the service was launched two weeks ago, believe the service is too good to be true, he added proudly.

But, of course, the novel system has left people asking all kinds of strange questions.

One particular customer has asked whether they should leave the tiffin box out on their doorstep when they are ready with it.

“No sir,” Mr Venugopal had replied. “This is not a milkman delivery, if you leave the tiffin box outside we surely won’t find it there.”

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