Fast Food Waste Threatens our Marine Environment, Drags Down Diversion Rates

America's fast food culture is hurting more than our waist lines. With its grab-and-go, overly packaged food stuffed with unnecessary condiments, fast food outlets are our country's primary source of urban litter and a significant hurdle to local communities' waste diversion goals.

Litter characterization studies across the country have recognized fast food restaurants as the primary identifiable source of urban litter. The most abundant type of non-cigarette litter is fast food packaging such as foamed polysytrene. This foamed plastic, a staple of fast food restaurant, becomes a permanent fixture in our environment when littered. Easily travelling through gutters and storm drains, it eventually reaches the ocean. Indeed, plastics from urban runoff is the largest source of marine debris.

Furthermore, fast food restaurants are a drag on local communities' waste diversion rates. Currently, less than 35% of fast food stores' waste is diverted from landfills, the vast majority of which is cardboard. Very little food packaging and almost no fast food plastic is currently diverted from landfills. This low diversion rate is surprising considering the vast majority of restaurant waste is not plastic--its main litter culprit--but rather paper, a perfectly recyclable resource. A 2012 study of fast food waste in Austin Texas found that as much as 85% of the waste thrown out by fast food chains could have been recycled or composted.

The problem of fast food is not insurmountable. Like many areas of waste generation, a few simple, economical changes in the way the fast food industry handles its waste could change what currently is a major source of unrecyclable, permanent litter to a model for other businesses.

What CAW is Doing:

  • CAW is working with local communities to help increase the number of municipalities that have adopted takeout food recyclability requirements.
  • Learn more about the statewide measure targeting fast food packaging, SB 529 (Leno).

Learn More about the Issue of Takeout Food Waste:


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CAW seems to be doing an

CAW seems to be doing an excellent job.Especially the very first measure listed in the article is a praise-worthy step.To be honest,even i did not realize problems arising out of the fast food restaurants.I mean everyone knows the bad health connection associated with such foods but the matter discussed never came across my little mind.

It is said the United State

It is said the United State of America is the top country in the
world in term of wasting food. The world's starvation can be abolished
immediately only if the amount of waste is saved by the people. We can
see debris and residual even in a single restaurant. This is not fair
for the rest of the poor people in the world, who are lying under the
poverty line. I am expecting some effective efforts in this regard.


Fried fish and shellfish,

Fried fish and shellfish, hot dogs, chicken, pizza, roast beef, and pasta are commonly sold at quick-service outlets. In addition to these staples, many quick-service restaurants sell a broad menu of Americanized Mexican, Greek, and Chinese foods. Some fast-food outlets offer specialty items, such as sushi, clams, or ribs, and others even sell complete "home-cooked" meals over their counters. Though menus and delivery formats vary greatly, fast food's chief common denominators include immediate customer service, packaging "to go," and inexpensive pricing.

We are in the state of

We are in the state of calamity where we need to join hands together to surpass the problem that we encounter.Life is not that easy that's why we need each other to lean on.There are many problems in the society nowadays.Like for example,the environmental issues that keep on making us down about its effects.But no matter how complicated those things are,we should never give up.The book written by Anne Leonard about the environment and nature explains how these things should be resolve.But I don't think I'll buy the book version of The Story of Stuff.I know Annie Leonard has a good cause (and it is) but from what I understand she doesn't cite sources that go much farther than anecdotal evidence.Yes,we are justifying here about the evidence.It will be the basis on how these things should be explained in a more simpler way.That isn't to say that we aren't doing environmental damage – I submit Lake Erie into evidence, QED – and that undoing some of that damage as best we can is definitely worth far more than a few payday loans worth, but the data is coming from the fringe, which is not always the best way to get informed.  

Amid the current recession,

Amid the current recession, people are more interested in saving than spending money. That’s why fast food restaurants, along with second hand stores, are seeing increased profits more than ever before. That’s why it seems kind of odd that Wendy’s has decided to cut their breakfast menu from over 400 of their stores. Wendy’s breakfast started when Arby’s bought Wendy’s back in 2007. Americans are taking out payday loans to cover basic expenses and flocking to dollar menus to save money on food. So it seems strange that Wendy’s would reduce its menu at this point. It’s going to take a lot for Wendy’s to catch up to McDonald’s.