KFC announced today it plans to eliminate non-reusable, plastic-based packaging from its supply chain by 2025, Nations Restaurant News reports.
To meet that pledge, the chain will work with suppliers worldwide to identify alternative plastic sources for items like lids, cutlery, straws, and plastic bags. Additionally, the chain said via press release it will conduct audits of its franchises current systems to find areas for reducing plastic waste. Though the chain hasn’t said what could potentially replace plastic, KFC franchisees will be able to create their own sustainable packing agenda, so materials could vary based on markets.
“With environmental sustainability as a core aspect of how we do business, this commitment represents a public acknowledgment of the obligation we have to address these serious issues.” KFC CEO, Tony Lowings, said in the press release.
Some KFC stores have already taken large steps in the direction of cutting down on plastics. In 2018, the company stopped offering lids and straws for drinks at 84 of its Singapore locations — though that only applies to customers eating at the restaurant. Locations in France and Romania, meanwhile, are looking to replace plastic straws with paper ones.
KFC’s pledge follows similar moves by the likes of McDonald’s and Starbucks to reduce single-use plastics. In January of 2018, McDonald’s announced its goal of having 100 percent of its restaurants use fully recyclable packaging by 2025. Also in 2018, Starbucks launched its open-source “Greener Stores” initiative, of which reducing waste is one part. Prior to that, the coffee giant had announced it would eliminate single-use plastic straws from more than 28,000 locations by 2020.
Like those chains, KFC’s reach is wide, as the company operates 22,000 restaurants in 135 countries across the globe. It’s also involved in the the NextGenCup Consortium, a partnership amongst food-service leaders to address the 250 billion cups produced annually that wind up, for the most part, in landfills. Working with partners like McDonald’s, Starbucks, The Coca-Cola Company, and KFC’s parent company, Yum Brands, the consortium fosters innovation towards finding a more sustainable cup design for quick-service restaurants.
Finding the perfect cup and then getting it into stores will be something of an uphill battle, given the dizzying inconsistencies over what can be recycled where, not just in the U.S. but worldwide. You also have to get consumers to actually recycle, which sounds like a no-brainer but will be a challenge, given that, in the U.S., 91 percent of plastic isn’t recycled.
Still, it’s nice to see mega brands signing on to make steps towards change. I expect we’ll hear more rumblings around this in the coming months, and 2020 so far looks to be the year major change starts happening when it comes to finding more sustainable ways to do quick-service food.