Reusable packaging in fast food restaurants: 7 days later, initial assessment

CONSUMPTION. The anti-waste law for the circular economy (Agec) goes into effect on Sunday 1 January. As a result, fast food restaurants have had to abandon their cardboard packaging in favor of plastic, washable and reusable packaging.

During the week, that was the end of the box of nuggets or French fries, cardboard. The anti-waste law for the circular economy (Agec), which was passed in 2020, came into force on January 1, 2023. Therefore, fast food restaurants with more than 20 seats are required to use glassware and plastic packaging, reusable and washed. In Saint-Dizier, the biggest fast food brands are forced to take over.

“We have been working on this project for more than two years, we have carried out the pilot phase from May to last September, so we adapted easily on January 1”, explains Jean-François Caron, McDonald’s bragards manager. . On the part of Burger King, we inform you that “the deployment of reusable cutlery is underway” at the fast food restaurant Chêne Saint-Amand.

The news appears to have been well-received by customers, even if Burger King stated that “these major changes will take time to adapt, for the team but also for the customer”.

Stolen cutlery, plague?

Some problems remain. First, the theft of cutlery or packaging in droves. The phenomenon exists in Saint-Dizier, but it seems to have faded. “We had wiped off the plaster with our easels, and when washable cutlery was launched, there was also a lot of theft, but things have calmed down since the start of the year”, assures Florence Caron. , also the patron saint of McDonald’s in Saint-Dizier. With packs worth almost a euro each, it’s essential to prevent potential kleptomaniacs. Burger King doesn’t want to communicate this, but it’s not unreasonable to think that the situation is more or less the same there.

Package theft is problematic in droves. (Credit: Nicolas Frize)

Sorting issues also arise, as fast food customers still seem lost trying to clear their trays. “It is not uncommon to find plastic packaging in the trash meant for food waste, but there is no doubt that people will eventually get used to it,” Jean-François Caron anticipates. Don’t panic, the RFID chip – which is not a GPS tracker – embedded in the package makes it possible to detect it by scanning a trash bag. So they are not thrown away with the rest.

Other fast food restaurants are quiet

Moreover, it’s still a matter of sorting, the packaging distributed at the drive-thru is still in the form of cardboard. It seems complicated to set up a system where customers return to the restaurant to hand over their packaging. For lack of anything better, disposables remain the norm for take-out sales. This problem is also experienced by other fast food braggarts, but not affected by Agec.

“We have been serving on plates for years,” they say at Le Petit Retro kebabs. “There’s no packaging when ordering onsite, so we’re not affected by this law,” added Chick’n Avenue. Grec’os abounds: “We’re not worried, because we already use washable packaging and cutlery, for our customers who consume on the spot. »

There are no single-use packs in the room, so that’s fine. Takeaway food, on the other hand, is placed in a cardboard container. “I want to do better at this, but for now there is no solution,” lamented the manager of Chick’n Avenue. In this case, large fast food chains and small restaurants are in the same boat.

Dorian Lacour

More diving, more hiring?

Contrary to what one might think, for restaurants, the switch to reuse isn’t causing a major upheaval. Of course, new cutlery, which is used between 30 and 50 times before being recycled, involves more dishwashing staff. “This represents more hours of work,” says Jean-François Caron. But there are no new employees at McDonald’s yet. No information was communicated to us by Burger King about meal management or recruitment numbers.

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