From: Eliza Barclay, The Salt: NPR
Published January 30, 2015 03:15 PM

Food Industry has long way to go when it comes to using recyclable and compostable packaging

Let's face it: We are people who consume many of our meals on the go. That means we're not eating on real plates or bowls but out of plastic containers and paper boxes. And perhaps daily, we drink our coffees and sodas out of plastic or plastic-lined paper cups.

Overall, Americans recycle at the lamentable rate of 34.5 percent and recycle plastic packaging at the even measlier rate of 14 percent. So the majority of that food packaging is ending up in landfills, or on the street as litter, where it may eventually get swept into the ocean. There, our wrappers and cans and cups become a much bigger problem — a direct threat to marine life that may ingest it and die.

According to a report published Thursday by the environmental groups As You Sow and the Natural Resources Defense Council, most of the major players in the restaurant and beverage industry are not doing a whole lot to ameliorate this problem. There's a big onus on the makers of packaged foods and beverages to reduce plastic and paper waste and also make it easier for us to recycle and compost the materials we use.

"What are companies doing to show that they have a personal and financial responsibility to promote recycling? [We found] relatively weak examples of leadership," Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow, a group that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility, told reporters Thursday. "This industry has a long way to go."

The two NGOs surveyed and analyzed 47 companies based on what they call the "four pillars of packaging sustainability": source reduction, or switching to reusable packaging; recycled content; recyclability and materials use; and boosting materials recycling. None of the 47 companies, which included big players in fast food, beverages and groceries, earned the report's highest "Best Practices" status.

Only two companies — Starbucks and McDonald's — got the nod for "Better Practices." And eight companies — Arby's, Quiznos, Burger King, Wendy's, Jack in the Box, Dairy Queen, Domino's Pizza and Papa John's Pizza — got the "Poor" designation for showing little to no leadership on packaging sustainability, based on information they make public.

Continue reading at The Salt: NPR.

Fast food image via Shutterstock.

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