Taco Bell announced this week its goal to make all consumer-facing packaging — cups, wrappers, etc. — recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2025, according to a press release.
This pledge applies to all materials that come into contact with consumers when they order food, from taco wrappers to cups to those $5 Cravings boxes. While the press release doesn’t delve too far into what materials might be used to make some of these items more sustainable, it does note that PFAS, Phthalates and BPA — chemicals associated with health problems like cancer and thyroid disease — will be removed from all consumer-facing packaging.
The chain will also install recycling and composting bins in locations “where infrastructure permits,” meaning any city that supports those waste streams.
In an interview with Fast Company, Missy Schaaphok, Taco Bell’s global nutrition and sustainability manager, offered some hints as to what future packaging might look like. That includes things like food baskets for dine-in customers and compostable or paper straws “in places that legally require them.”
Taco Bell already has some sustainability initiatives in place. It introduced recyclable cups and lids for cold drinks in in early 2019, and as Schaaphok told Fast Company, “a good portion of [the chain’s] packaging today is already recyclable or compostable.”
That’s all well and good, but a major challenge for QSRs nowadays is convincing customers to dispose of recyclable and compostable materials properly instead of just chucking them in the garbage. In some states, this will be easier. California, for example, passed AB 827 last year, a law that requires limited-service restaurants to make recycling and composting bins available, as well as provide signage to guide customers as to which items go in which bins.
Getting customers to actually recycle and compost their waste is not a Taco Bell-specific issue. As The Spoon contributor Stephen J. Bronner pointed out in a post this week, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Subway, and others have all pledged sustainability initiatives. Many of them are around packaging. All of them will have to contend with how to best communicate the importance of sustainability to the consumer.
For QSRs, who have always relied heavily on disposable packaging for both in-house and to-go orders, making the “reduce, reuse, recycle” concept easy for customers will become paramount in terms of actually keeping trash out of the landfills.