Taco Bell's new packaging commitments are one (tiny) step closer to corporate accountability

Taco Bell is starting of 2020 with a bang by pledging to make all their food packaging recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2025, along with a few other environmentally-friendly and people-first upgrades.

If you’ve been to a Taco Bell this decade, you might have noticed that they use paper over plastic most of the time already, but this switch will make sure that the paper you use to cradle your sweet, sweet taco doesn’t end up clogging up landfills (for long, anyway).

On top of this, they will be removing PFAs and BPA from their packaging. After watching Dark Waters, we know how harmful this can be.

As part of the sustainability efforts, Taco Bell is also installing recycling and composting bins in their stores to ensure their waste makes it to the correct end-point.

Better public education campaigns are needed for this to work

A major issue with compost bins and recycling bins is, well, people who don’t know how to properly classify waste. Check out the garbage cans the next time you go into a restaurant and I can almost guarantee that each of the bins, garbage and recycling, are filled to the brim with trash.

I can also almost guarantee that no employee is digging through the trash to sort out your soggy Crunch Wrap Supreme wrapper from the trash to put it in the compost bin.

That also leaves trash in the wild. There has been a movement of “trash shaming” in the clean-up community where those who pick up trash will shame corporations for that Dunkin cup that ends up in the river, Starbucks straw that ends up in a sea turtle’s nose, a or Target plastic bag that ends up in the ocean.

And yes, we should be doing that! Taco Bell is trying to attempt to stop this problem so that some of their waste can be reused in stores (reusable taco baskets), reduced entirely, and recycled or composted to avoid pollution.

But better public education campaigns are needed. I’d like to think that most of us don’t just chuck our taco wrappers and cups out the window, but most of us probably just toss them in the trash.

If companies are going to step up and make their packaging compostable, they’re not likely compostable in your garden (Taco Bell has not released information on this, so I’m just speculating).

If you need an industrial composter, the public needs to be alerted of this so the waste enters the correct stream.

Or you could take this one step further! Perdue Farms is making all new packaging out of water-soluble, compostable “foam” made from corn starch that dissolves in water. I’ve actually used this before in packaging from Lush and it works very well!

Of course, for Taco Bell and other fast food restaurants, there’s the option to dine in and get minimal packaging. Or just not eat it at all (😱).

Taco Bell’s vegetarian menu

Taco Bell has also been a pioneer in vegetarian and vegan options, which we know are better for your carbon footprint.

They are not the only ones. Dunkin pushed out Beyond Meat sandwiches, and Burger King has been putting a lot of advertising dollars behind the “Impossible Whopper.”

What’s next?

As mentioned, the taco fast food giant has not released all the details of the plan (how much waste they generate, how much waste this aims to keep out of the waste stream, etc), so more details are sure to come.

Taco Bell Corporate is also looking into plant-based bowls and the like to cut down on plastic for their salads and taco bowls.

Compostable cups though? Not so fast — their cups are still made of good ol’ plastic. But they are pledging to cut down on straws.

I have never had a problem filling up my water bottle at a fast food place, so skip the plastic cups altogether and drink your water (you know you need it, anyway).

This story has been edited with the addition of Perdue Farms sustainability practices on 1/16/2020 at 9am. Thanks, Dr. G!

Cover photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

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