Remember when McDonald’s switched from styrofoam containers to the paper(ish) wraps they have today? That was a big deal back in 1990. Since then there has been limited but steady improvement in fast food packaging, driven mostly by local legislation and consumer pressure. To make matters more complicated, the question of “paper vs plastic” or even whether to bring your own container isn’t entirely cut and dry in terms of environmental impact. That’s one of many reasons I put the word “green” in quotes or avoid it altogether.
Nonetheless, effort is effort, and Quiznos sandwich chain has made what looks like decent progress on many of their different types of packaging. Being a critical optimist, I’m happy to see the new effort, but want to raise a few questions as well.
Eat Toasty, Be Green: Here are the bulletpoints from their press release, including some extra parenthetical notes by me. The new types of packaging will include:
*100 percent compostable wax-coated paper cups (But what’s the plan to actually make sure these get composted? What the source of the paper? How are these any different from the old cups?)
*Pulp salad bowls made from renewable sugarcane (What part of sugarcane? Is this a waste product, like Verterra?)
*Plastic lids made of 30 percent post-consumer-recycled PET bottles (Excellent, wonder what’s keeping these from being 100%)
*Napkins made from 100 percent recycled material and fibers – 90 percent post-consumer (Glad to see the distinction finally being made toward post consumer, since 100% recycled means nothing).
*Catering lunch boxes made of 100 percent recycled paperboard – 35 percent post-consumer(Seems like a good step, but for catering, why not make the boxes reusable?)
Quiznos has also changed aspects of the employee uniforms to use various post-consumer waste and makes a decent commitment to recognizing the role the fast food industry plays in the world’s enormous waste stream. Rick Schaden, Quiznos CEO, sums up the vision:
While packaging changes are a small step in the grand scheme of going green, we know that using packaging that is made in part from recycled materials or that is compostable is a great way to start. It’s a change we’re passionate about making.