Elegant Dining at Fast Food Restaurants

Throwaways are being replaced with reusable plates and cutlery

A group of friends enjoying a meal together at a restaurant.

(giuseppelombardo/ Shutterstock.com)

When you go to fast food restaurants it's usually because you want a quick and easy meal. You are there to grab a burger and fries or pizza and throw away the paper or cardboard wrappings. Now a new law in France is changing the single-use culture by banning all disposables from dine-in customers.

The law, that was enacted in 2020 and went into effect January 1, 2023, requires fast food eateries with more than 20 seats to provide reusable plates, bowls, and cutlery to all who eat in the restaurant, reported France24. Take-out orders can still use disposables.

Environmentally sound
The new law that turns the fast food culture on its head ,was enacted to combat waste and encourage people to recycle. There are around 30,000 fast-food eateries in France and that works out to 6 billion meals a year that generate 180,000 tons of waste. That’s a lot of trash.

“Fast food is a sector that produces a lot of waste. Although single-use plastic had already been banned, it had been replaced by large amounts of throwaway products like cardboard, wood, bamboo, which we consider an unacceptable waste of resources, ” Alice Elfassi, head of legal affairs for the NGO Zero Waste France, told The Guardian.

Some eatery owners are concerned that the electricity and water used in washing the dishes will offset the environmental benefits of not using disposables, reported France24. The European Paper Packaging Alliance (EPPA) criticized the law as unnecessary, pointing out that most of the single-use containers in the EU are made from renewable resources and have an 82 percent recycling rate.

Making the switch
Restaurants in France have been preparing for the change for months, reorganizing space for the reusables, hiring dishwashers, and educating patrons to not put their plates and cutlery in the trash or to take their cups with them when they leave.

Some McDonalds made the switch early and put reusable plastic containers that look just like the well-known red disposable containers. Burger King trialed reusable bowls and cups printed with the company’s iconic logo.

Still, implementing the new law was a challenge for some business owners, reported The Guardian. One of the big challenges has been to find the space to put in dishwashing facilities that can clean the dishes at 60 Celsius.

Some environmental groups fear that the rules will not be fully implemented and are pressuring the government to do proper checks and hand out fines to businesses that are not in compliance with the new law.

Still, it is a big step to being more sustainable. “It's an emblematic measure that if properly implemented will make a very concrete difference for people – it definitely goes in the right direction,” Moira Tourneur of Zero Waste France told France24.

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