Fast Food Recycling

You know you eat out. Don’t deny it! Let’s talk fast food recycling!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This slogan has been around since the 1970’s, and most Americans believe it is a responsible way to live.

But recycling isn’t working.  China used to take 40% of our recycling, but stopped in 2018. Instead, 25% of paper and plastic and metal in the US is ending up buried or burned because it is too contaminated to be worth recycling. Only 9% of all the plastic produced in the past 70 years has been recycled.

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We could make laws or new taxes. Instead, let’s focus on what we can do today to reduce our waste in a small area of our lives:  eating out.

Let’s talk about fast food.

On a given day, 36% of Americans eat fast food.  80% of adults eat fast food at least once a week.

You know you’ve eaten out this week…

You know you’ve eaten out this week…

Next time you eat fast food, take these five steps to reduce your plastic, aluminum and paper waste.

  1. Bring your own beverage container. 

Drink cups made of waxed paper or Styrofoam cannot be recycled.  The plastic lids and plastic straws also go directly to the landfill.  Any fast food restaurant with a self-serve soda fountain will allow you to use your own drink cup.  Just pay for a large drink and show your drink cup to the teenager taking your money.

Happy fast food teen workers.

Happy fast food teen workers.

It looks delicious. But look at all that plastic that will go straight to the landfill.

It looks delicious. But look at all that plastic that will go straight to the landfill.

2. Condiments use a lot of plastic that cannot be recycled.

If you’re eating Mexican and there is a salsa bar, bring your own small container that you use, clean when you get home, then again.  The same goes for pump ketchup. 

If the restaurant has individual ketchup or salad dressings packets that will end up in the landfill, bring some ketchup or dressing from home in your reusable container.  I know that sounds hard core, but think of the millions of plastic ketchup packets that get thrown away every single day.

Instead of snacks, use these containers to bring your own ketchup or salad dressing.

Instead of snacks, use these containers to bring your own ketchup or salad dressing.

3. You can’t bring your own container to have a salad made.

Salads are typically made in advance and stored in individual plastic containers, which cannot be recycled.  You can choose to eat at fast food restaurants that put their salads in paper bowls with aluminum lids.  You will have to bring the aluminum lid home to wash and put in your own recycling, because dirty aluminum in the restaurant trash will not be recycled.

Delicious and better for the environment! I’ve only found paper bowls for salads at  Chipotle  and  Rubio’s . Rubio’s uses a plastic lid, however. That means Chipotle wins with it’s paper bowl and aluminum lid.

Delicious and better for the environment! I’ve only found paper bowls for salads at Chipotle and Rubio’s. Rubio’s uses a plastic lid, however. That means Chipotle wins with it’s paper bowl and aluminum lid.

4. Plastic forks.

You can buy a set of camping silverware that you bring and wash after each use.  If you are stuck using plastic silverware, at least bring it home, toss it in your dishwasher, and use it over and over.

Just don’t forget it’s in your purse when you head to the airport…

Just don’t forget it’s in your purse when you head to the airport…

5. Paper is the most challenging.

Paper receipts and the waxed paper that holds sandwiches cannot be recycled. You have no choice but to throw them into the landfill. Paper boxes or bags or plates or napkins with food and grease stains cannot be recycled either.  What should you do with your dirty paper trash?  Right now your best option is to take it with you the next time you go to a bonfire.

Yes, my marshmallow is on fire. I like it that way!

Yes, my marshmallow is on fire. I like it that way!

You may look silly bringing your own containers.  You may feel odd bringing your paper trash or aluminum recycling or plastic fork home with you.

Make this a habit, and two things will happen.  Other people will see and perhaps decide to join in your efforts to reduce waste.  And two, by reducing your contribution to landfills, you can eat fast food guilt free!

Almost…

You should join Toastmasters

You should join Toastmasters

Toastmasters is a club that guides members to improve their public speaking. Here I am giving this blog posting as a speech, pretending I’m doing an editorial newscast. I’m not perfect, but I am improving!

(If you are already a Toastmaster, do you hear the Word of the Day that I say in the first few sentences of my speech?)

Word of the Day = ubiquitous. Existing or being everywhere (adjective).

Are you hungry yet? What steps will you reasonably take to cut back on your waste when you eat fast food?

(Or did I mean ‘waist’?)

Restaurant #3: How Do You Eat An Elephant?

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

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How do you break a bad habit?

One day at a time.

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How do you eat at every restaurant in your town?

One street at a time.

Some things in life are overwhelming.  School, work, family, finances.  How do you handle it?

1. Step back

2. Take a deep breath

3. Break down the situation into small parts that you can tackle one at a time.

For our Cuisine Quest to eat at every restaurant in our town, I was feeling overwhelmed, until I looked at the small picture.  I looked at one street.

This one-mile-long stretch has strip malls, auto repair shops, a church, apartments, businesses, and 12 restaurants!

There are chain restaurants: El Torrito, Starbucks, Subway, El Pollo Loco, and Yum Yum Donuts.  That’s 5 restaurants we can skip.

There is one catering place that is open for lunch, and one pancake house that isn’t open for dinner.  That’s 2 restaurants we can skip.

That leaves 5 more restaurants that we are supposed to eat at.  Restaurant #1 and #2 are on this street, so we already checked them off the list.

Only 3 restaurants left!  That is very manageable!

Restaurant #3 is a “pizza and grill”.  It seems to be mostly for takeout, but they do have a nice small dining area in front of the order counter, with tablecloths and a TV to watch the game.

I assumed they would basically have pizza and a few sides.  But they have an extensive menu of sandwiches, pastas, salads, and sides.  It was hard to choose, so we went with their recommendations.

A simple salad came with the dinner.

A simple salad came with the dinner.

The garlic bread was also included, and perfectly tender and had good flavor.

The garlic bread was also included, and perfectly tender and had good flavor.

The chef recommended his cheese steak.  The photo isn’t attractive, but in my husband’s expert opinion, the sandwich was tasty!

The chef recommended his cheese steak. The photo isn’t attractive, but in my husband’s expert opinion, the sandwich was tasty!

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Would we come back again?  We have to, so we can try their pizza!  But, even though the dining area was pleasant, we would probably get it to go. Two forks up!

When you feel overwhelmed, how do you break a big situation into small steps?

Restaurant #2: Too Much Competition

Look at all the lovely, identical snakes for sale at the  pet store ! How can I choose?

Look at all the lovely, identical snakes for sale at the pet store! How can I choose?

How do you stand out in a crowded field?

Our town has a taco shop on nearly every street. How can they all stay in business?

Our Cuisine Quest to eat at every restaurant in our town took us to a taco shop we had never been to before.  My husband was excited that they had posole.  Posole is a soup with hominy and meat, often served with tortillas, cilantro, radishes, avocado slices, cabbage, or onions.

Not many taco shops have red posole! You can see how difficult it is to make  here .

Not many taco shops have red posole! You can see how difficult it is to make here.

I ordered a carnitas plate, which is pork served with items to eat separately, or together in a tortilla.

The pork carnitas were delicious, not too fatty, and enough for leftovers.

The pork carnitas were delicious, not too fatty, and enough for leftovers.

Again, my question is, how do you stand out in a crowd?

Personal attention.  For this restaurant, the lady at the counter seemed to know everyone who came in.  These individuals and families come again and again because they know someone will show that they are happy to see them!

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Would we come back again?  For me, since there are so many taco shops in my town, I will be more picky.  I want a place with Coke products.  And, I prefer my guacamole to be more chunky.  Yes, those are little things, and with this restaurant being so friendly I am uncomfortable saying this, but I would go elsewhere.

My husband will be back again for that posole!  Unless the next taco shop has posole that is just as good….One fork up.

How do you stand out in a crowded field?

Restaurant #1: A Pleasant Surprise

lentil soup at restaurant #1

We don’t have a map or a chart or a plan yet.  How will we dine at every restaurant in our town?

Although I am a planner, it was dinnertime and we decided to just jump into our cuisine quest at a nearby restaurant we had never tried before.

Tucked in a strip mall between a UPS store and vitamin market, this “Indian & Nepalese Food” restaurant used to be a Hawaiian shaved ice counter.  So, that is what we expected, just with more curry.

We can still get delicious  Hawaiian shaved ice , but we have to drive a lot further.

We can still get delicious Hawaiian shaved ice, but we have to drive a lot further.

I did not expect this new restaurant to have a fancy interior, with intimate lighting and red and gold accents.  I did not expect cloth napkins.  I did not expect the place to be triple the size of the previous shaved ice restaurant.

Lentil soup  for everyone.

Lentil soup for everyone.

Homestyle Nepalese entrees.  Classic Indian dishes.  Great service.  Delicious, if a bit spicy, food.  Large quantities.

I should have written down what these dishes are called.  Chicken with vegetables in a sauce. Served with naan bread or steamed rice.  Yummy!

I should have written down what these dishes are called.  Chicken with vegetables in a sauce. Served with naan bread or steamed rice.  Yummy!

The best part,  live performances !

The best part, live performances!

two forks up

Would we return?  Two forks up!

Are there any restaurants in your town that have been completely transformed (for the better, or for the worse)?

The Restaurant Rut

The Cuisine Quest begins......

sweet tomatoes souplantation salads soups bakery

My husband and I are in a restaurant rut.  We are trapped in a if/then feedback loop.

  • If we want tacos, then we go to Rubios Fish Tacos.
  • If we want salad, then we go to Souplantation.
  • If we want a burger, then we go to Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

We do have our favorite independent restaurants.  But they are also part of the rut.

It’s time to make a change!

But how?  What will keep us from falling back into old habits?

We will eat once at every single restaurant in town!

city limits sign

Our suburban city is 9 square miles of rolling hills, population 57,100.  Two interstate freeway traverse the city, with one high school, one large shopping mall, many strip malls, an older revitalized downtown, 12 parks, a civic center, and an active parks and rec program.

How do we find all the restaurants in our town?  Our town borders other towns seamlessly, so that most residents don’t know where one city ends and the next one starts.

yellow pages logo

In the old days, I would have simply looked in the restaurant section of the Yellow Pages.  Every restaurant would have been listed by city.  Easy!  But what about now?

Restaurants are businesses.  So, each would have a business license on file with the city.  According to our city website, I could get a list of all the restaurants with business licence for 50 cents each.  So, if there are 100 restaurants, that would cost me $50.  No, thank you!

typical city hall building
google maps logo

Google Maps has a search function.  I type in my city, then click NEARBY, then Restaurants.  It gives me 20 restaurants at a time, with a short description, and pins them on the map.  Total number of restaurants – 141!  But wait; some of those are nearby, and not in my town. I’ll have to cross check with the actual address.  Very tedious.

It turns out that the Yellow Pages has developed a partnership with Yelp, the online crowd-sourced reviews about local businesses.  In the search boxes, I can only find restaurants near my city, not only in my city.  But with Yelp, the address is in the search results, so I can easily pick out the correct restaurants.  At the top right, Yelp writes “Showing 1-10 of 1458”.  There cannot possibly be 1458 restaurants in my city! Or even near my city.

How do we refine our restaurant list?

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mcdonald's logo

A lot of chain restaurants are on the Google Maps and Yelp list.  For our quest, we will ignore chain restaurants.  But when is a restaurant a chain?  Here is a good discussion about what makes a restaurant a chain.  For our purposes, if there are 5 or more of the same restaurant, we will not count it.

What about bars and pubs?  I’m not interested in hanging out at some dingy bar that happens to serve tater tots.  Not that there are any dingy bars in my town.  But, just in case, we will not include anyplace that is only over 21.

cocktails sign in neon
starbucks logo

And coffee shops?  I would not count Starbucks as a restaurant, but we have several independent coffee shops with breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus.  If the coffee shop has made to order items, not just reheat the stuff in the display case, then we will count it.

How do we rate the restaurants we visit?

We are going to be simple here.  Would we return?  Forks up, or forks down.

How do we keep track of the restaurants we have visited, and have yet to visit?

We are map people.  We are chart and list lovers.  Stay tuned for details on how we corral that Yelp and Google Maps list into something manageable.

Any advice?

cute girls whispering secrets