Go to any fast food restuarant and you will likely be left with almost as much waste in the form of packaging as you had food to eat. Much of that waste is recyclable…plastic drink bottles and cups, cardboard, plastic wrappers, etc. So why don’t these resturants have recycling options available in their stores?
The ‘greening’ of fast food
Corporations such as Starbucks and McDonalds have touted their efforts to make their packaging more recyclable. McDonalds has moved away from paper wrappers which can’t be recycled when covered in food waste, and has reduced the amount of paper in its napkins by 21%. Starbucks has committed to developing a fully recyclable coffee cup and to serving beverages exclusively in recyclable or reuseable mugs by 2015.
These efforts have been applauded by the environmental group The Dogwood Alliance, which is leading the way in the effort to make fast food packaging more environmentally friendly. That applause is deserved. However, it is only the first step. If these restaurants don’t place recycling receptacles in their restaurants all that effort will be for naught. The recyclable packaging will still end up in the trash. Currently only 35% of all the recyclable packaging at fast food restaurants is diverted away from landfills to recylcling facilities.
How do we get fast food restaurants to start recycling?
Perhaps the industry just hasn’t noticed the growing trend towards recycling in this country. But that’s a bit far fetched. More likely fast food corporations haven’t seen a financial benefit in recycling.
Our power as consumers is to speak to corporations through our wallets. Fast food restaurants probably will not start recycling until customers demand that they do so. We do that by not buying our food at restaurants that have unrecyclable packaging, or that don’t provide a means of recycling.
Not patronizing McDonalds or Taco Bell based on your environmental principles is easier said than done, particularly if you have a toddler in the car clamoring for a Happy Meal. So to ease your conscience, take your trash with you and recycle it at home. Tell the manager why you’re taking the trash away. The manager may not have any control over whether the restaurant recycles or not, but managers pass customer comments up to franchise owners when the same comment keeps popping up.
Beyond your personal dining habits, we should all be lobbying our elected officials to require recycling in fast food establishments. You can find your local representatives by visiting your state, county or municipality official government web site. To locate your US Senator, visit the official US Senate web site at http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm. To find your US Representatives, visit the US House web site at http://www.house.gov/. Calling is good, and so are e-mails, but the most effective means of communication is the old-fashioned letter mailed by US post.