America loves fast food. The world loves fast food. But fast food creates a lot of packaging, especially when it’s taken “to go.” While huge fast food chains such as McDonalds and Starbucks are making efforts to switch to recycled, sustainable, or at least recyclable packaging, the overall effect of these changes is not likely to have much impact unless our habits change.
Recycling food packaging is a nice idea, but the fact is, only a small fraction of it is actually recycled. A 2015 report by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explains that Americans recycle less than 14 percent of its plastic food packaging. That same single-use food packaging is one of the primary sources of the almost 270 tons of plastic waste in the world’s oceans.
The problem of minimal recycling has only gotten worse since 2015. According to the EPA, in 2017, only 13 percent of all plastic containers were recycled in the U.S., and almost 70 percent went to the landfill.
If we’re not recycling even the recyclable stuff, a better solution is to cut out the packaging altogether. Fast food, or take-out from any restaurant, is a good place to start.
For this week’s challenge, if you eat out, try to leave the restaurant without needing packaging. Some fast food restaurants, such as Mad Greens, make this easy by using real (not disposable) dishware and utensils for dining-in orders. If you really can’t take a few extra minutes to dine in, choose fast food joints that have made a commitment to minimal packaging that is recyclable or, better yet, made with 100% recycled materials. Then recycle it!
These challenges ask you