In January, single-use packaging will be banned in fast food restaurants (which is not quite ready)

From 1 January 2023 single service is prohibited for fast food. Major brands must now offer reusable service. With almost a month to go, are the signs ready?

No more burgers in a cardboard box or soft drinks in a paper cup: From next January 1, disposable service in all restaurants will be prohibited for table service. In fact, it is fast food in particular that is forced to change its habits: from McDonald’s to KFC via Burger King or Subway, all the big brands must comply.

Hard to imagine when you eat there today: cardboard, paper and plastic still pile up on the trays and in the bins a few weeks before the deadline.

The reusable tableware that will soon be installed in Burger King restaurants.
The reusable tableware that will soon be installed in Burger King restaurants. © Burger King

In fast food restaurants, service will now be reusable: cups, lids, plates, cutlery and other containers must be collected and washed after serving to customers who eat on the premises, according to the anti-waste law adopted in January 2020 Only the paper that surrounds the sandwich (and prevents it from falling apart when eaten) is allowed. According to the Ministry of Ecological Transformation, fast food generates 180,000 tonnes of packaging that is immediately thrown away after use.

“Some brands have well anticipated the ban, others have just discovered it or pretend to discover it”, confides the ministry, which notes a “wait-and-see” attitude of some companies.

“A Change of Habit”

In order not to disturb the consumer, plates and cups will be marked with the brands’ colors, in the same way as disposable containers. The giant McDonald’s had tested its reusable tableware in a dozen restaurants last year and has already implemented it in a large number of restaurants. Its major competitor Burger King claims to be ready by the Jan. 1 deadline: Some restaurants will start using the new reusable dishes now, others will wait until D-Day, but all will be equipped with them by then, the company says. .

By sticking to his habits, the customer may risk throwing his entire tray in the bin when he leaves the table. Burger King, which chose resin containers, had equipped all of its tableware with RFID chips in a test restaurant. The goal was to estimate the proportion of containers that were thrown in the trash or that disappeared instead of returning to the sink. The number “was quite high at the beginning, then it decreased over time”, reports Muriel Reyss, communications and CSR director at Burger King France.

“It is a new gesture that requires a change of habit for our customers”, stresses Muriel Reyss.

Store Fernand wanted to push the marker a little further: The French burger chain has decided to remove the paper around the sandwiches in favor of coated dressing, as in a classic restaurant. “The difference between fast food and traditional catering will become more and more blurred”, predicts Maurizio Biondi, at the head of the brand. The brand offers burgers slightly more expensive than its competitors, around 17 or 18 euros, and the presentation on the plate “changes the quality that the consumer perceives”, he says.

The burger will be served on a plate from 1 January 2023 in Big Fernand restaurants.
The burger will be served on a plate from 1 January 2023 in Big Fernand restaurants. © Tibaut Chouara for Big Fernand

For a sector built on one-time service, this is a heavy transition. In many restaurants, it was necessary to push the walls to install the necessary equipment for washing and storing the new containers, adapted to the large volumes of fast food chains. It is also significant investment to buy these containers and equipment and extra working time for employees. In the absence of dishwashing, some companies may also use external service providers, as the hotel industry does with linen.

Canteens, cafes, cafeterias

The application of the measure is not necessarily obvious. Domino’s Pizza, with a focus on delivery, has a few restaurants where pizzas can be eaten on site. The company is currently working on an alternative to the plate, but “we will not be able to implement it” in the coming months, explains Joël Tissier, president of Domino’s Pizza France. The executive instead insists on the company’s work around overpacking in the supply chain, “the submerged part of the iceberg” in pizza delivery.

At Starbucks, we claim to be in line until January 1st, and are already offering to serve drinks in ceramic cups on site. Because burgers and pizzas are not the only ones concerned: there are also coffee chains, canteens, cafeterias in museums and supermarkets or even sandwich chains, that is, all catering companies with more than twenty seats. . Small businesses avoid the ban, which is difficult for many of them to apply. The small local kebab, for example, will pass between the drops.

“During the first year of run-in, we will advocate an educational approach. The sanctions will concern those with bad will”, notes the Ministry of Ecological Transformation.

Control and sanctions

From next year, inspectors from the regional directorates for environment, planning and housing (Dreal) and DGCCRF will carry out checks. In case of non-compliance with the ban, the ministry calls for fifth class fines and daily fines for the most stubborn restaurants. However, he hopes to avoid such measures, relying instead on the bad publicity the latecomer risks, especially since its competitors will not hesitate to let it be known.

Who will actually be ready? Answer next January. In any case, the ministry closes the door to a possible postponement of the measure’s entry into force.

Jeremy Bruno BFMTV journalist

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