When packing lunches or storing leftovers at home, reusable plastic containers can keep food fresh and reduce waste. Now, fast food corporations like KFC are using the same idea to offer a more reasonable and environmentally friendly alternative to disposable polystyrene.
Now, KFC will offer side dishes in microwaveable, dishwasher-safe plastic containers. After the meal is done, these containers don’t have to be tossed. The idea won them a Greener Package Award . The awards are designed to recognize corporations taking steps to increase the “cleanliness” of their manufacturing. Other winners include Coca Cola for its 30% plant based bottle. This year, applicants were held to stricter standards that required submissions to “include verifiable data for at least one aspect of environmental impact: greenhouse gas reduction, sourcing metrics/impacts, end-of-life recovery metrics/impacts, life-cycle metrics/impacts, and/or social impacts.” While critics may still suggest that most companies are not doing nearly enough to reduce environmental impact of their packaging, these steps are certainly in the right direction.
Awareness of the negative effects of discarded fast food containers might help solve a bigger problem as well. Polystyrene, the material much fast food packaging is made of, is technically recyclable. However, it is time consuming and expensive to do so, and many waste management systems will not accept it. As a result, these light plastics have a tendency to litter roadsides and ultimately end up in landfills. In some places, strides are being made to reduce these undesirable consequences. A 2010 Seattle ordinance now requires that almost every piece of food packaging be compostable or recyclable.
Fast food may not be your first choice for an eco-friendly meal, but it’s unlikely to lose its place in the American diet any time soon. Smart moves by businesses like KFC suggest that big business may be starting to think more carefully about how their products affect the environment.