Packaging pollution: Taco Bell, can you reduce the burden on Mandur?


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Food overloaded with fat can be a put-off especially when all you want is a bowl of salad and a bigger bowl of soup on a rainy afternoon. With those very few relatively healthier eating options shutting shops one after another in Mantri Mall, I had no other go but to drag my friend to Taco Bell for a fill yesterday.

A couple of burritos and a small pack of nachos—all delivered in aesthetically designed paper packets in bright Indian colours. Yes, it’s all convenient, no chances of leaking or messing up of the tray or the table. The packet helps you hold the hot burrito conveniently once you remove the upper half of the packet by taking out the strip in the midriff. The tray looks neat, hiding the very thing you have paid for and its all-modern look adds to the charm of the ‘upwardly-mobileness’ of the munching crowd.

All for a 10-second comfort?

For how long does all this convenience last? Not even 10 seconds! So much of packaging for a 5-to-10-second walk from the delivery counter to your table? Once you take the burrito out of the packet, the latter dies an instant death. Perhaps it’s okay for a takeaway but for those who eat at the restaurant, could the Taco Bell management come up with better, less paper-consuming options?

Thoughtless packaging

The thickness of the paper is a thoughtless overkill. The burritos do not leak given the elasticity of the all-purpose (maida, in India) flour used to make the tortillas and the tidy manner in which they are wrapped. Nachos can perhaps settle into a plastic plate which can be reused. The quesadilla delivery is even worse: it comes in a plastic cover. How about using a simple water- and heat-resistant paper sheet? After all, what matters is what’s inside, right?

Better even, why not this? A completely no-paper option? It looks just fine. Or, is it too Third-World-ish?

Exploit the quintessential Indian expertise

Pic source: asiaobscura

Pic source: asiaobscura

We Indians have great expertise in transporting 2-3 bowls of idlis floating in sambar all by ourselves without spilling one bit in crowded stand-up restaurants. You can trust us on that. We sure won’t mind if you reduce the paper wastage by funneling out the savings into adding a big portion of wheat flour to the tortilla instead of feeding us with processed maida. Better still, why not increase the portion size by adding more hearty beans, crisp shredded lettuce, diced onions and diced ripe tomatoes?

An inconvenient truth

An outlet which used to serve hot soup in a pretty ceramic bowl switched over to much smaller paper bowls. When I told the store manager that the switchover took away the very pleasure of sipping the soup out of my platter, he blamed it on labour shortage needed to wash and reuse the bowls. Nevertheless, the shop downed its shutters many weeks ago. I am sure it was more due to overpricing and downsizing of the portions than supply of hands itself.

Misplaced corporate strategy

There is a misplaced ‘eco-friendly’ strategy among corporate giants these days. Just by switching over to paper, they think they reduce their carbon footprint by many miles. But paper doesn’t degrade that easily given all the chemicals that go into bleaching and colouring it and finally custom-making and transporting it to far-off locations.

Why not adapt?

Many fast food giants try to ‘Indianise’ their burritos and pizzas by sprinkling Indian spices. Why not extend this strain of thought to reducing waste in a city bedraggled with landfill crisis? Finally, it’s not the immediate customers like us visiting these places, but the Mandur people who take the beating coming out of all such ill-thought-out conspicuous consumption patterns and marketing mantras.

A request to readers

Could you please put spotlight on outlets where you see similar packaging overkill? I also invite you to name those outlets and restaurants where sensibility takes precedence over mindless aesthetics and waste is reduced by simple measures?

One thought on “Packaging pollution: Taco Bell, can you reduce the burden on Mandur?

  1. I have wondered about it innumerable times, just why fast food centers serve their food in disposable boxes for people eating right on their tables. There was indeed a time when they did serve some of the food items in reusable plastic plates and some others in disposable wraps or things like that for customers’ convenience. A roll wrapped in paper for example. But it seems now, that they have completely switched over to disposable boxes and still care to ask, ‘having here or takeaway’? Just so that you can decide to pass the boxes on a tray or in a carry bag? Companies like Taco Bell and McDonald’s can invest huge…like really huge amounts of money on advertisements, promotion, fully automated machinery and what-nots, but they fail miserably on finding a feasible solution on reducing their dependencies on disposables? Believe it or not, I live in Germany which is one of the top-notch countries to have reached high level proficiency in managing their waste, but it still depresses me to enter a fast food centers here where every damn tangible item to serve things is a disposable item.

    Liked by 1 person

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