In an effort to help foodservice operators address litter and littering behavior in and around restaurants and other foodservice establishments, the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI), Keep America Beautiful, and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) have partnered to produce “Being a Good Neighbor: A Guide to Reducing and Managing Litter.”

The 10-page guide has a handy audit form to measure litter around restaurants, as well as a foodservice operator checklist to identify potential litter locations inside and outside the establishment. There are also practical tips to help operators reduce and ultimately eliminate litter in and near their establishments. Recommendations for recycling bin and trash receptacle placements make proper disposal of packaging items convenient and accessible. And well-known restaurateurs provide techniques to engage employees, customers and the greater community.

“Litter around restaurants can pose a significant challenge, carrying a burdensome business cost and diminishing the customer experience,” says Jennifer M. Jehn, president and CEO, Keep America Beautiful. “Keep America Beautiful is pleased to bring our knowledge and experience about littering behavior, litter prevention, and recycling in working with the Foodservice Packaging Institute and National Restaurant Association in producing this important—and relevant—guide.”

Foodservice packaging, defined as single-use cups, containers, wraps, boxes, bags, lids, cutlery, straws, stirrers, and more, is made from a variety of materials, including paper, plastic, and aluminum. It allows restaurant operators to serve guests in a sanitary, convenient, and economical manner. But when the packaging isn’t disposed of properly, the ensuing litter can have harmful effects on roads and waterways, with consequences for the economy and public health.

How much does restaurant packaging contribute to the litter stream? Keep America Beautiful reported in its landmark 2009 “Litter in America” study, conducted by Action Research, that fast-food packaging—the largest component of all foodservice packaging—represents approximately 5 percent of all litter in the United States. Although only a small portion of the total litter stream, it is one of the more visible parts.

“We recognize that sometimes foodservice packaging is littered. But we also know that the packaging itself is not the problem,” says FPI president Lynn Dyer. “Collaborating with Keep America Beautiful and the National Restaurant Association helped us to identify real solutions to mitigate litter and share them with our partners in the supply chain.”

“In addition to its harmful environmental impact, littering can impose real costs on business operations,” says Laura Abshire, director of sustainability and government affairs at the NRA. “This guide contains practical information and tips that can help restaurateurs reduce litter in and around their restaurants, benefitting both the environment and their bottom lines.”

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