Everyday Enviro with Elise - The fishy business of soy sauce

Everyday Enviro with Elise - The fishy business of soy sauce

By Elise Catterall  July 14th, 2020

This week, Elise looks at those little plastic fish bottles we use for soy sauce and, more importantly, why we shouldn't.


A little while ago I did a beach clean-up with some friends and couldn’t help but notice that the main form of plastic waste we collected was made up of the small fish shaped soy sauce bottles that are a ubiquitous part of sushi takeaway. It was astounding.

And more prevalent than the bottles were the little lids - there were dozens and dozens of those tiny red lids. Since then, we have had our COVID-19 lockdown which has seen a sharp uptake in food delivery, so sadly those little bottles are more and more a part of life.

There are two major issues with these bottles. First, they are a single-use container, and a two part single container at that, so the resources that have gone into their production for a single serve of a condiment are significant and then they are just disposed of.

Second, they are small, which means you often are given multiples so that you have sufficient sauce for your sushi, and – more problematic – their size makes recycling them difficult as they are far too small to be dealt with by recycling machinery, especially the lids. (The rule of thumb is that only items business card sized or larger can be dealt with.)  

So what should we do? 

Well, ideally, we are moving out of the take-away/delivery mindset now that restaurants are able to accommodate diners, so that will mean there will be less need for them overall.  

If you have no choice but to still purchase sushi to take away, ask for no soy sauce so they aren’t added mindlessly to your order. You need to be on the ball for this as they are often popped in – several at a time - without you realising. If you do need soy sauce, see if you can add it directly to your food from their larger bottles before you leave (that could go for the wasabi and ginger too), or if you are taking it back to an office or home, wait and add your own. You could also request your sushi place to swap to the foil sachets of soy sauce – not a perfect solution as it is still a single-use item, but certainly a better option.

If you do find yourself with an accumulation of the little bottles, don’t throw them in with your recycling but don’t toss them in the bin either. In the bin, while they are destined for landfill, due to their small size, many will go AWOL, which is part of the reason we found so many on the beach during our clean up. Recycling is the best option but to recycle them effectively, the best solution is to separate the lids from the bottles and wait till you have a bunch of each and recycle them together inside larger plastic containers – one for the bottles and one for the lids.  

If you are looking for a way to reuse them, there are options there too. If you are crafty, you can do what some of these creative types have done and make sculptures or fish bottle jewellery. If that doesn’t appeal, you can actually refill them. Pour some soy sauce into a small bowl, grab your empty fish bottle, squeeze all the air out with your thumb and fore-finger and then pop the neck in to the sauce and release your fingers. This will draw the sauce up into the bottle. Then you can carry them with you for those times when sushi cravings hit, add them to lunch boxes and picnic baskets etc. And of course, you can fill them with sauces other than soy, so the uses are endless!

See you next time! - Elise

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


By Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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