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Mar 8, 2019

Packaging INSIDE the Bento

I thought that the packaging of bentos was always wasteful. They use so many separate pieces of plastic just to assemble a lunch, and every time the office does a "bento day" for lunch we always end up with several huge bags of garbage to toss away.

Because of that impression I had always assumed that bringing your own bento to work would be a much better idea for the environment, and it generally is true. However, I was given a bento recently that got me thinking about the inedible waste INSIDE a homemade bento box for the first time.

I have a private student who is always so nice and would make a dinner so I could go home after our late lesson at night and be able to immediately have something to eat. Her latest creation was a pack of maki sushi and inari sushi, which according to her, are both very easy to make and she knows that I like both items.


Packaging INSIDE the Bento photo

When I saw it, I immediately realized that it was in thin plastic packaging similar to the ones food stands use during festivals. I wish I could just give her a reusable plastic bento box, but maybe that would be impolite as I would be implying that I expect free food every single time.

Upon opening it, what was in front of me was a very neatly arranged pack of sushi plus some greens to balance my eating habit. I was very grateful for the food and I picked up the first piece of the sushi roll.

“……huh, the aluminum foil is attached to it.” Then I realized she made the sushi roll, sliced it up into pieces, then individually wrapped each piece of the sushi with aluminum foil! For minutes sitting there I could not understand the rationale behind going through such a hassle.  Then it hit me that she put in the extra effort just so that the sushi would not stick together!


Packaging INSIDE the Bento photo


“….. but that’s what the seaweed is for!” I thought. Then I realized she did not even want the seaweed to stick to each other. Since I am the type of a person who would rather have a bowl of sushi rice with the stuffing spread on top just because I am too lazy to fill it up, I understand the effort she put in is admirable.

At the same time though, she used quite an amount of aluminum foil just to separate each item. I went back to look at previous meals she had made for me and they all had quite a lot of aluminum foil and plastic wrap INSIDE the bento itself to keep the food pieces apart! I really appreciate each meal I got, but it did surprise me quite a bit.


Packaging INSIDE the Bento photo

It all got me thinking about how much waste is thrown away every day from the consumption of homemade bento, and more importantly, how many people in Japan are actually aware of it. To fix this, we need to not only bring reusable bento boxes to work, but also reusable dividers like the silicon ones you can purchase from 100 yen shops.


Better yet, just forget about separating them because they will all go down my stomach anyway.


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