MANY municipalities, cities and provinces have passed ordinances regulating or banning single use plastics. This is also true in other countries, some even going to the extent of banning plastic on a national level. Where there are no compulsory ban, the private sector is voluntarily doing it. The hospitality industry for instance is ditching plastic straws, stirrers and disposable cups.

But plastic ban laws are just measures to curb the symptoms and do not address the root cause of the worsening problem of plastic pollution. An article I read in the internet said that eating culture is the real driving force behind excessive plastic waste. Case in point is the proliferation of fast food restaurants and takeout food services which brought along the problem of disposable packaging.

A non-government organization in the United States called Clean Water Action (CWA) made a simple study to determine the contributions of the fast food business in the problem of packaging waste. Specifically, they focused on the sources of trash that end up in the San Francisco Bay Area. The study results show that 49 percent of litter is from fast food restaurants.

Because of convenience, availability and affordability, the traditional family dinner is increasingly being replaced by fast food. There is a downside to this emerging culture. Aside from generating plastic waste, there are health issues that come with it. Many fast foods tend to be high in saturated fat, sugar, salt and calories.

In the Philippines, our “bayanihan” culture has prevented disposable plastics for decades. Neighbors lend their utensils, plates and cooking pots whenever there is a big occasion. This is the reason why cutleries and dinnerware are marked with nail polish or engraved with the owner’s name.

Today, this practice is vanishing. No thanks to fast food restaurants and disposable utensils. Globalization and modernization have caused rapid worldwide changes in food consumption behavior. Western-style fast foods have invaded almost all countries in the world, including the Philippines.

To counter the fast food culture, there is a movement called Slow Food. According to their website, slow Food is a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us. Slow Food is created in Italy after a demonstration on the intended site of a McDonald’s at the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Fast food restaurants are addressing the disposable plastic and packaging problem by introducing reusable utensils and biodegradable packaging like paper. Some fast food restaurants even have ‘strawless’ days. Not all however are doing it, so the problem persists.

In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, it seems fast food restaurants are here to stay. Unless of course the Slow Food movement becomes popular. Otherwise, we just have to tighten regulations and strongly enforce the law to address the plastic waste problem.