by: Leslie Jones


With all of the new information available on recycling and all of the “Green Initiatives” being introduced, it would stand to reason that restaurants, more particularly fast food restaurants, would somehow fall into the recycling trend.  This would also seem true considering that restaurants are some of the biggest generators of recyclable material. There are, however, “no federal laws or regulations in the U.S. specifically aimed at getting fast food chains to reduce, reuse or recycle their waste.”*


Fast food restaurants have reduced their waste in some noticeable ways that have made a positive impact on the environment “but it has all been voluntary and usually under pressure from green groups. McDonald’s made headlines back in 1989 when, at the urging of environmentalists, it switched its hamburger packaging from non-recyclable Styrofoam to recyclable paper wraps and cardboard boxes. The company also replaced its bleached paper carryout bags with unbleached bags and made other green-friendly packaging advances.”*


“Both McDonald’s and PepsiCo, the owner of KFC and Taco Bell, have crafted internal policies to address environmental concerns. PepsiCo states that it encourages “conservation of natural resources, recycling, source reduction and pollution control to ensure cleaner air and water and to reduce landfill wastes,” but does not elaborate on specific actions it takes. McDonald’s makes  similar general statements...”*


Some argue that the recyclable material coming from fast food restaurants would be contaminated with food debris, such as ketchup on the paper wrappers on the sandwiches, and grease from the french fry containers. As we have addressed in a previous article titled “I’ll Have a 14-inch Pepperoni....Hold the Box!”, even smaller amounts of grease can contaminate whole batches of paper or cardboard recycling. Others have added that getting consumers to actually place their trash and recyclables into the correct containers will be a challenge.


If we could eliminate the obvious challenge of the actual sorting of the recyclable material from the trash at fast food restaurants, or even restaurants in general, the amount of lanfilled waste would most certainly be lessened.  This noticeable change would make a world of difference.


For more information on recycling programs in the Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan area, visit our website at