I must admit that until I visited a Chick-fil-A this summer while traveling in the South (at the request of my traveling partners), I didn't even know that fast food restaurants were still using Styrofoam containers. I thought that since McDonald's caught all kinds of grief in the '80s for their clamshell containers, all of the big national fast food chains were steering clear of polystyrene packaging. I thought wrong, however, and learned there are still a few holdouts. But by early 2011, KFC will no longer be one of them.
KFC has begun rolling out its new reusable polypropylene container and lid to replace their former single-use foam container for side dishes. The new sides container, which is also microwaveable and "top rack dishwasher safe," requires 25 percent less energy to produce and generates half the amount of greenhouse gases, as compared to the general-purpose polystyrene foam container it is replacing. KFC's expectation for the container is that consumers will reuse and eventually recycle the package.
“Through research, we found that consumers prefer reusable containers because it gives them control of how the item is reused or disposed of after purchase,” said Susan Miles, KFC Engineering Manager. “Our research also showed that 60 percent of consumers keep a reusable container for at least six weeks.”
The new reusable container has been introduced in about 60 percent of KFC stores and will be available nationwide by early 2011. Despite just launching, the new KFC sides container has already won a Greener Package Award in the food and pharmaceutical packaging category along with Coca-Cola's plant-based bottle.
"We believe this is the first meaningful introduction of reusable food containers in the fast food industry," said Megan Isaac, Senior Marketing Manager for KFC. "By the end of this year, KFC U.S. will reduce foam packaging use by 62 percent and reduce total plastic use by 17 percent.”
In addition to phasing out polystyrene sides containers, KFC will also be replacing plastic plates with paper ones as part of the company's plan to reduce its use of nonrenewable resources and ultimately eliminate foam packaging from its restaurants.
The question I have now is whether Chick-fil-A will follow suit and step out of the foam ages.