Tiny Plastic Condiments: A Small Step

One of my students has been helping me with my anti-spork project at school by keeping me abreast of the policies and practices in the cafeteria. Yesterday, she informed me that she conducted her own experiment.

Cafeteria procedure is to give one mayo and one ketchup pack with each hamburger. My student decided, instead, to place the packs outside her window and tell students to take only what they needed. The result? She cut plastic waste created from condiment packets by 50%. She also told me that a lot of students said they had never used the ketchup they were given.

First of all, I want to recognize how awesome my student is for making a difference at our school. Next, I want to point out just how easy it is to cut down on waste. I may not eat a ton of fast food, but I tag along often enough with my husband that does, and I’ve noticed that some restaurants force packs of condiments on you (two soy sauce packs with your chicken katsu, for example) while others ask if you want ketchup or horsey sauce, etc.

On the fast food service side, staff should be trained to ask if the customer wants X sauce. On the consumer side, customers should be prepared to refuse condiments they don’t want/need or ask for the specific number of packets they will actually use. Customers who are picking up food on the way home should remember to use their own, much less wasteful, condiments in their fridge and cupboards.

Fast food isn’t much of a temptation for me since there aren’t many places that have food safe for people with Celiac disease (and before I knew about that, food for vegetarians), but I know it’s a regular habit for many people out there. If you’re not going to cut the habit completely, try to find ways to make small, positive changes like refusing straws, using your own cup for fountain drinks, refusing plastic-wrapped condiments, passing on bags, bringing your own utensils, etc.

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