Plastic in the ocean
By Lorna Hopkin | March 17, 2023

How Your Quick Service Restaurant Can Respond to the Death of Single Use Plastics

If it feels inconvenient to have to buy all new reusable bins or recyclable utensils, find out what one global chain is doing to conveniently maintain operations, meet sustainability goals and comply with multiple plastics bans.

Humans love plastic. It’s clean. It’s durable. It’s shiny. It’s hygienic. It keeps our food fresh. It’s recyclable. But it’s everywhere. In the ocean. On beaches. In the water. In the air. Even inside us. Just as scary, 80-85% of marine litter found on European Union (EU) beaches is plastic, and by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. 

That’s why restaurants, retailers, hospitality providers and others who serve food and beverages must make changes now to be part of the solution versus a part of the problem. Consumers are expecting your business to become more eco-friendly, and many governments are requiring it. 

Since 3 July 2021, The Single Use Plastic Directive has banned plastic cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, polystyrene cups containers and lids across EU member states. Similar legislation comes into play in the UK from October 2023. In the U.S., states and cities are trying to follow suit since there is no federal legislation dictating plastic use. (You can read about some of the most impressive plastic bans around the world here.)

Though best for our planet, I know these new laws have not been good to quick service restaurants (QSRs) and other businesses that serve food and beverages. You have probably been hit hard by the forced change, and I imagine the new legislation has stirred things up for you as you’ve scrambled to find alternative drink lids, straws, coffee stirrers, and - on a grander scale – new tubs and totes that can be washed and reused easily within your fast-paced operation. I have no doubt that, deep down, you and your colleagues want your organisation to be more sustainable – firstly because it’s the right thing to do, but also because you must cater to a younger demographic among which protecting the world for future generations resonates deeply. They are the future generation.  

But that doesn’t discount the struggle you’re facing as you join the fight against climate change. There’s a lot to think about, including how you’re going to prove that you’re complying with these regulations and operating in a more environmentally friendly way in the back of house, where changes may not be so evident to the average consumer.

If you’re a manager, you need to show that any plastics still in play are in a circular process which prevents your team from sending them to a landfill. You must show how many times they are used so you know when to recycle them, which means both asset management systems and staff behaviour will need to change too. The good news is that companies like yours are already starting to, cleverly adapting to new, greener ways of working, and there’s a lot to be learned from their successes.

I’m not going to name names, but a major global fast-food chain has already implemented a way to track the plastic tubs it uses to store ingredients, prep dishes, etc. from production, through reuse to final recycling. (If this is your chain, kudos!) The innovative solution features dishwasher-ready RFID tags applied at the time of manufacture to uniquely ID plastics. 

Using a handheld RFID reader, tags are easily read each time items are sent for cleaning. When they return sparkling fresh, the items are quickly scanned back into the restaurant ensuring there is enough stock for the day. The plastics have a finite number of washes prior to requiring replacement, which is up to each establishment in this chain to define. But when nearing the threshold, a software app alerts store or district managers so they can order new stock.  

Store staff are taken care of too with this technology because they don’t have to personally track usage or be held accountable if they miscount uses. Tubs have RFID readers fitted above them. A display alerts the team if reusable items have been discarded – and how many have been discarded – so they can be retrieved to prevent fines for landfill breaches. The solution is simple to install and with a real-time view of the lifecycle of reusable assets always available, it helps you prevent the loss of plastic items and avoid compliance breaches. 

Even better, the system isn’t just restricted to plastic. It can be used to track other reusable items, reduce shrinkage, and cut food waste.

The result is a more efficient, operation that helps save plastic, saves money, and safeguards the world.

And RFID technology isn't just designed to help restaurants track their assets. We have installed thousands of bespoke asset tracking solutions across the world, that include, but are by no means restricted to monitoring NFL players, tracking casino chips, loss-prevention of designer glasses, protecting endangered cacti, keeping kitchen parts together, and controlling medicinal cannabis distribution. Check out these cool stories: 

If you need asset visibility to support your business operations then do not hesitate to contact us to discuss how we can best help you sense, analyse and act. You may also want to check out these expert insights: 

Best Practices, Retail, Hospitality,
Lorna Hopkin
Lorna Hopkin

Lorna Hopkin is Product Marketing Advisor at Zebra Technologies with responsibility for Zebra healthcare solutions and advanced location technologies. Lorna joined Zebra in August 2018 as part of its acquisition of rugged tablet specialist Xplore Technologies.

Lorna is a chartered marketer and has two and half decades’ experience across a wide range of industries. At Zebra, she has launched a variety of products into the healthcare space and other verticals.

Lorna is a tireless advocate for health and fitness at Zebra and in her spare time participates in Ironman competitions and enjoys writing about her experiences at

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