Oct 9, 2018
It feels like generating a bunch of paper and plastic waste is simply unavoidable when you are eating at fast food restaurants. I used to be against 'take-out' when given the choice, because of the extra bags and cup holders and whatnot that would not have been needed if I was to dine-in, but now that I am more self-conscious about generating waste, it just hit me that eating in created a huge amount of trash too, and it was unavoidable.
I had a light lunch at a 'kopepan' restaurant nearby for the first time. The restaurant itself was great, way beyond what I had expected. It was clean, the food was delicious, and I was well satisfied until I was about to stand up and leave. I had a tray full of garbage.
My lunch was a simple set meal so what you see is basically what it came with, besides the cup of water that I got afterwards. Let's count the trash:
1. Paper for the kopepan sandwich
2. Paper for the nuggets
3. Plastic cup for the BBQ sauce for the nuggets
4. Plastic lid for the cup, for the BBQ sauce, for the nuggets
5. Plastic cup for the coffee
6. Plastic lids for the coffee
7. Plastic straw for the coffee
8. Tissue x1
9. Wet napkin
10. Wrapper for the napkin
11. (Bonus! The paper cup for water)
That's a whooping top 10 list just from a simple lunch that cost me about 500 yen, but it cost the environment much more than that while we enjoy our food. And again, this is what the set "included", so it increases with each item I order on top. And during my time in the restaurant, I saw at least 40 other customers entering, many of whom had their food to-go, adding plastic bags onto the list. That is at least 400 pieces of trash, within the 25 minutes I was there for (I eat really slow).
So how can we avoid the trash without limiting ourselves from enjoying these affordable and efficient businesses?
I really do not have a good solution. I can bring my own water (which I often do), use my own towels for wiping or wash my hands rather than using the wet napkin, I can even ask to skip the drink lid, I suppose, and I guess that is the best we can do. It seems insignificant, but at the same time, I want to believe that every little bit helps, especially when everyone participates in it.
What this also tells me is how environmentally unfriendly fast food restaurants are. As much as I appreciate all the little things, like a lid for the BBQ sauce so it feels more prestigious than a sauce I get from the sauce bar myself, the lid is, essentially, unnecessary. For the business to create the feeling of detailed care, or "omotenashi", we are essentially paying for the extra items with our wallets as customers, and paying for the additional trash in the lifespan of our world.