The Effects of Food Waste on the Local Community and its Environmental Impacts

The main problem we were focusing on for this project is the food waste and trash production by the fast food company McDonald’s, and its effects on neighboring communities as well as the environmental effects of the trash produced by the company. In the US, the average fast food restaurant produces around 200,000 pounds or 90.7 tons of food waste each year (Statistic Brain, 2013). If we multiply this amount of food waste by the amount of fast food establishments in the country as of 2018, which is, 247,191, that is almost 50 billion pounds of wasted food in American fast food restaurants alone.


A photo of my neighborhood filled with trees and plants
The Tagus River in Lisbon, Portugal which surrounds the area that is being polluted by the company
The other side of the Tagus River which surrounds the fast food restaurant


Looking specifically at the company McDonald’s who have over 37,000 restaurants around the world, they create piles of garbage surrounding their restaurants as well as the neighboring communities, which is the problem being faced in our community. Only about 10% of McDonald’s restaurants around the world actually recycle their trash, which is not a lot considering an average daily service to 60 million customers. Every order contains their food wrapped in individual packaging as well as plastic cups, straws and much more. This is environmentally damaging. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in America, 25 billion cups are thrown away annually, and even with various fast food chains changing their plastic use to more sustainable packaging, most of this recycled material ends up in landfills due to the recycling programs or lack of in each specific city (“The Throwaway”).

Trash left by McDonald’s in my neighborhood in Lisbon, Portugal

“Even with McDonald’s new sustainable goals, the company is still contributing to a plastics epidemic with their single-use packaging”



This overwhelming amount of trash production yearly is detrimental to the environment. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch located in the North Pacific Ocean, contains about 3.5 million tons of trash and 80% of this marine trash comes from land. In order to figure out where this trash was coming from, Clean Water Action (CWA) a non-profit organization began to collect samples of street litter. From their research, the CWA found that the biggest source of trash came from fast food companies making up about 49% of the trash. The biggest companies responsible for this number were McDonalds, Burger King, Seven Eleven, Starbucks and Wendy’s. CWA furthered their findings by calculating that about 31% of the trash that was collected could have been prevented through the use of reasonable alternatives (Triple Pundit).

MY RESPONSE: What can we do?

In order to figure out a solution for this problem which was impacting the community where I live and my neighborhood, my sister and I began thinking of solutions for this.

  1. Bring awareness in the community
  2. Communicate with the restaurant and the municipality about placing a bigger recycling bin instead of the small trash bins.


The trash in our community is a problem that should be dealt with quickly as it is our responsibility as residents here to take care of our neighborhood and seeing trash around the trees and overflowing from the trashcans a big problem because each person is responsible for the well being of themselves and others. So far, the there haven’t been many impacts or changes seen in our community. However, it can become something bigger by bringing attention to all members of the community.

Some ways to bring attention to the community:

  • This need for change could be transmitted through announcements in the condominium meetings which happen every month.
  • Print one of two posters/pamphlets and put them inside the elevators. (This way, everyone has the chance to read this information paper and can become aware of this action being taken to make our neighborhood cleaner)


Seeing that most of the trash that ends up in our neighborhood comes from the company McDonald’s, it should somehow be responsible for coming up with a solution to stop polluting the area around their restaurant. This could be done by placing a trash can outside their restaurant so that there is an easier access for the people. If there is a major trashcan outside like an recycling point, it would be much easier for the people to dispose of their trash before allowing it to be blown inside the neighborhood.

What Can The Company Do?

Most of the trash that comes into our neighborhood and is polluting the rivers around as well as the wild life, could be prevented through some specific measures taken by the actual company. There are various alternatives that big fast food chains could use to prevent their large amount of plastic and trash pollution.

These solutions include:

  • Selecting a team in each restaurant that is responsible for managing the daily garbage. These people could be the ones who prepare the food in the restaurant as they are the ones aware of the specific use of ingredients for each meal. These people chosen for the important job of making sure they are doing their best to recycle all parts of their garbage production that they can should want to do it and have in mind the environmental benefits of doing this.
  • Reduce the actual trash being produced. When the director of the Clean Water Action (CWA) asked fast food companies ways they could reduce their trash, many said the napkin dispensers. By providing these, it makes it more difficult to take more napkins than are actually needed for the meal, which can ultimately reduce the amount of paper consumption and trash.

Works Cited


In the comments below, add your personal experiences with plastic pollution coming from restaurants around your residency area, and how you have decided to fight against this environmental epidemic. Also add some other solutions that you think could work in trying to solve this problem, or that you have seen work before 🙂

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  1. April 24, 2020 by Kristina Peterson

    Thank you for researching this topic, you develop your ideas well.

    I have for a long time been frustrated by the ‘free advertising’ companies get from their garbage scattered around. Since we know where the garbage originated (Name of Shop) those of us who find it as litter could deposit it in special kiosks that ‘count’ where the items originated. I bet if companies had to pay for each object of their packaging that was found on the street as stray litter, they would be a bigger part of the solution.

  2. April 24, 2020 by Mei Mei

    Hey Ivani, I really enjoyed reading your research. I’m taking a class where we’ve briefly talked about this problem, so I liked being able to learn more. It’s so important to spread awareness about how many negative effects humans have on the environment. We need to take better care of where we live, and your project does a great job emphasizing that!

  3. April 25, 2020 by Artemisia

    Hi Ivani, I really loved your topic! I’ve never thought much of all the food waste and plastic pollution fast-food establishments produce, but the stats in your project really opened my eyes to just how much of an impact they are having on the environment. The area I live in is a little bit better with restaurant waste, but I always cringe when I go out of the area and see people using styrofoam and single-use plastic bags to store leftovers. I think as an individual, some of the small ways to reduce the amount of waste you produce are to use reusable bags and utensils, bring a container to put leftovers in from a restaurant, and if you want to drink boba, bring your own reusable water bottle and metal straw!

  4. April 28, 2020 by Fay Aljasem

    Hello Ivani, I really enjoyed reading about your topic. Pollution is a really big problem going on around us, and even with some awareness going around there isn’t enough being done to stop it. I agree with letting people knowing why this is happening instead of just telling them that it is because this way a solution can be found for this growing problem.

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