Fast food chains package their foods in disposable paper bags, wrappers, and cardboard and Styrofoam containers. Fast food outlets therefore do not have to clean utensils, ceramic cups, plates, or serving dishes. Although paper, plastic, and foam products cost money, they are not as expensive as the stolen and broken dishes that prevailed before the fast food industry shifted to disposable packaging. Many Americans believe that fast food generates vast amounts of trash. However studies have consistently shown that fast food establishments are responsible for less than 1 percent of landfill volumes. The problem with fast food trash has been the customers who toss their refuse onto highways and streets, making it highly visible. Fast food establishments have placed trash containers in convenient locations so they can be easily used. Chains have also encouraged customers to “put trash in its place.” Also, most fast food chains have installed trash compactors in each outlet to limit the volume of trash generated at the outlet. To counteract the bad public relations due to its customers tossing trash onto streets, many fast food chains have contributed to local activities, such as sponsoring highway cleanups.
In addition to the waste generated at the fast food outlets, a great deal of secondary waste is generated by fast food suppliers, and this is a serious problem. Feedlots and slaughterhouses, for instance, produce vast amounts of waste, which greatly contribute to pollution.
A large volume of trash is generated by the soda industry. It is estimated that 44 billion soft drink cans and bottles are thrown into landfills annually. Many municipalities and states have required deposits on all bottles, and others have enacted laws requiring recycling. Soda manufacturing and bottling companies have opposed such laws, but because they found that they generate much more money from people who fail to redeem deposits than they lose on the recycling, they now strongly support such efforts.

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