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From monstrous portions to excess packaging, restaurants have a super-sized waste problem on their hands right now, and single-use plastics are a major contributor to the issue.
But as I wrote a few newsletters ago, the most effective way to combat this is not necessarily by expecting every restaurant out there to develop its own sustainability strategy. Many restaurants are right now just trying to survive the fallout from the last year. Instead, the fight against food waste, the fight against plastic waste has to include businesses, innovators, activists, and lawmakers alike.
We took a step in that direction this week when fast-casual chain Just Salad released a sign-on letter for restaurants and food/bev businesses to show their support for the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (BFFPPA) 2021, recently introduced legislation aimed to curbing our reliance on single-use plastics.
BFFPPA 2021, which builds on an earlier version of the bill, calls for reduction of plastic production at the source, greater focus on reusable packaging and containers, and more protections for communities of color, low-income communities, and indigenous communities, which are disproportionately impacted by plastic pollution.
“The plastic pollution problem gets worse with each passing day,” Judith Enck, a former EPA Administrator and the President of Beyond Plastics, said in an email to The Spoon. “The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act is the most comprehensive and sweeping Congressional bill that addresses this problem.”
BFFPPA 2021 addresses all plastics. To drive the point home for restaurants, Just Salad introduced its own sign-on letter, which is a call-to-action for restaurants of all sizes to support the BFFPPA 2021.
Because of costs, operational challenges, and differing regulations from state to state, getting rid of single-use plastic is an expensive, time-consuming prospect for many restaurants. As a result, the restaurant biz generates about 78 percent of all disposable packaging. Case in point: plastic cutlery. The United States uses more than 36 billion disposable utensils per year, which is enough to wrap the globe 139 times. Don’t please get me started on plastic-lined disposable cups.
Just Salad’s letter outlines how BFFPPA 2021 could help. To name just a few benefits listed in the letter:
- More and better reusable programs, such as those currently in operation from Loop, DeliverZero, and, of course, Just Salad
- Fewer single-use plastics, which are a major problem in the restaurant industry because of to-go boxes, bags, and cutlery
- More standardized recycling and composting across states
“The BFFPPA would accelerate our respective companies’ efforts to reduce the waste and carbon footprint of our industry and create dining experiences that are healthy for people and planet. Supported by this legislation, our sustainability efforts would have a much larger impact,” the letter says.
Enck, in her email to The Spoon, expressed equal enthusiasm for the bill’s potential impact on restaurants: “Restaurants don’t want to contribute to the plastic pollution problem. When it is adopted into a law, this bill will eliminate some of the worst plastic products and boost alternatives to plastics.”
Just Salad is in the process of collecting public support for BFFPPA 2021. Restaurants, foodservice organizations, and food and beverage companies can show theirs by signing the letter.
Speaking to The Spoon recently, Just Salad’s Chief Sustainability Officer Sandra Noonan pointed out that our efforts will “remain fragmented” until a national policy puts regulations around things like single-use plastic cutlery and does more to enable reusable containers, the circular economy, and waste management infrastructure. BFFPPA 2021 seeks to end that fragmentation, and with it, our longstanding reliance on the concept of single-use plastic.
Slice, a restaurant tech company that recently launched a POS system for pizzerias, announced it is also launching a loyalty program for pizza-loving restaurant customers. Slice Rewards will give users pizza points for every pie they order at a participating restaurant.
Restaurant reservations platform Opentable has opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant it says will serve as a kind of innovation testing ground for the company’s technology. Dubbed Layla, the restaurant is now open for business at Kayak Miami Beach.
Churchill Downs Racetrack has released its official menus for 147th Kentucky Derby. This year, it includes online components, including a virtual cooking class with Churchill Downs Executive Chef David Danielson.