Before I get into this post, I want to say, that I am not singling out the company in the picture below. It just happens to be that I enjoy popcorn chicken, and once in a while I indulge. To the company in this picture I want to say, why don’t you read this post and my blog, and then lead the way to more responsible fast food? It’s inevitable that fast food will have to become more environmentally conscious, and the company that leads the way is going to attract more customers than those that don’t.
I was at a food court a couple of weeks ago and my daughter and I had a craving for popcorn chicken. I ordered the $3.99 special for myself which included a piece of chicken, some popcorn chicken, fries, and pop. I usually intervene, but today I deliberately didn’t to see how much ‘stuff’ would be included in my order. The results are pictured below.
Waste generated from one fast food meal.
The tally: 1 large paper cup, 1 plastic lid, 1 plastic straw, 1 paper straw wrapper, 1 paper box, 2 paper french fry sleeves, 1 plastic dipping sauce container, 2 ketchup packets, 1 plastic fork wrapped in 1 plastic package, 2 napkins, and 1 paper placemat. 15 disposable items came with my meal. Unbelievable. This doesn’t even include the waste from my daughter’s meal, which was similar. All these items, manufactured to be used for a total of… only 10 minutes and disposed of.
So, as I said above, once in a while I indulge in some fast food. But, as I am sure it is for many, it is always bittersweet as I contemplate the waste that always seems to come with this food I am wanting to enjoy. When I think of the trees that are clear-cut everyday to feed the fast food industry, it all seems quite ludicrous.
So what can this company, and others do? As I have suggested in more than one post, let’s take a look at the garbage and see where they can make a difference.
The paper products:
- The box. Well, you have to have the food in something. At least under the box it says that the “package contains a minimum of 51% recycled material including 25% post-consumer”. It also says in bold lettering, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Well, let’s see them start getting to work on the first 2 R’s themselves!
- The french fry sleeves. When I opened the box, I was shocked to find the fries and the popcorn chicken separated in their own paper sleeve. Excuse me, but isn’t everything in the box fried and greasy? So what if they got a little mixed up? The sleeves were so unnecessary. And they were made of white, bleached, paper with no claims of recycled content.
- The napkins. Again, white, bleached paper with no claims of recycled content. Also gave me way more than I needed (we returned two). Easy enough to ask the customer how many napkins they need.
- The placemat. We don’t need it. It’s just advertising for the company. Unfortunately, the placemat doesn’t make the same claims as the box in terms of recycled content, although it looked as if it could have had some.
- The cup. Again, white, and no claims about recycled content. And it’s big. If the drink is in a combo, how about letting the customer opt out of the larger drink if they want to, so they can use a smaller cup and not have to dump the extra that they aren’t going to drink?
- The paper straw wrapper. What about those straw dispensers that dispense straws one by one?
Conclusion on the paper products – reduce and use 100% (or as close to it as possible) recycled unbleached paper products made with technologies that conserve water, as many other restaurants are already doing. Really, the only paper that was necessary was the box, a cup, and maybe one napkin if you are neat.
- The lid and straw. How about fast food companies asking you if you would like a lid or a straw? If people in cafeterias can carry their mugs of coffee or glasses of juice to the table, I think people in food courts can handle the same. It’s only necessary to have a lid and straw if you are taking your drink to go (and if you fill the cup right to the brim).
- The fork. As you can see, I didn’t even use the fork. It’s finger food, for goodness sake. And why the heck it is wrapped in plastic, I don’t know. Certainly unnecessary, as plenty of fast food and take-out don’t give out plastic-wrapped utensils. What about making utensil dispensers like the ones for straws? Also, ask the customer if they want utensils instead of automatically giving them one or sticking one in the bag. My daughter actually returned the fork from her meal.
- The condiments. Well, McD’s got that right many, many years ago, at least here in Canada. Let the customer pump their own condiments into a mini paper cup, or better yet, right onto their fries or chicken. Again, easy solution.
Conclusion for the plastic? None of it is necessary for a sit-down meal.
Waste from low-litter fast food meal.
The low-litter fast food meal – 1 paper cup, 1 paper box, 1 napkin. 3 items that could potentially be made of 100% recycled material.
What a huge difference. And it would save the fast food companies a lot of money, even if they were to spend more on recycled content.
Future post: Going a step further with food courts now using real dishes and cutlery!