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.
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.
Next time you eat fast food, take these five steps to reduce your plastic, aluminum and paper waste. (Credit and gratitude goes to my friend Emily for inspiring my change in viewooint.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).