Calls for KFC to stop wasting plastic as Beijing prepares for new waste-sorting rules

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Following in Shanghai’s footsteps, Beijing will also soon require residents to properly sort their trash or face fines. The 16th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 15th Beijing Municipal People’s Congress voted to adopt the decision to amend the “regulations on the administration of Beijing municipality’s solid waste” on November 27. The amendment will come into force on May 1, 2020.

The new rules divide up garbage into four distinct categories: kitchen waste, recyclable waste, hazardous waste, and other waste. Individuals who violate the regulations risk fines of no less than 50 and no more than 200 yuan. It will also be forbidden to produce and sell ultra-thin plastic bags anywhere in the city, or hand them out in supermarkets, shopping malls, markets and other commodity retail places.

Furthermore, article 26 of the amended regulations reads as follows: “catering business units and catering distribution service providers shall not actively provide consumers with disposable products, and shall set up noticeable signs for it.” However, an article published last weekend by the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (中国生物多样性保护与绿色发展基金会) notes that KFC stores in Beijing refuse to allow customers to use their own cups for beverages, forcing them to use the disposable cups provided by the store. In light of this, the article asks whether disposable or plastic cups given as default to the customers will also be included in the detailed list of disposable products to be banned.

According to the foundation’s report, by the end of 2018 KFC had 5910 stores in China. Based on a conservative estimate, if more than 1000 disposable cups (for both hot and cold drinks) are consumed per day in each store, only in China the chain consumes an average of six million disposable cups a day. According to this calculation, the number of disposable paper cups used or consumed by KFC in a year would be around two billion, for which 800,000 trees would need to be cut down; and the greenhouse gas emissions from making all those disposable paper cups would be equivalent to 15,000 cars driving around for a whole year.

In October more than a dozen Chinese environmental organizations signed an open letter to Ms. Joey Wat, the CEO of KFC in China, asking the company to change this policy. The letter, entitled “To KFC, which consumes 2 billion paper cups a year: please respect consumers’ right to a green choice!“, has yet to receive any response from the fast food chain.