Chipotle Is Turning Their Used Plastic Gloves Into Trash Bags

by Rudy Sanchez on 03/02/2020 | 2 Minute Read

As the current plastic waste crisis has prompted many to adapt and develop packaging and single-use items that contain less to no plastic, there are instances where a reasonable replacement isn’t on the horizon, yet our need for them continues. In the case of plastic gloves used for handling food, not utilizing them puts the public at risk for dangerous and contagious foodborne illnesses making it a public health concern.

People getting sick from the mishandling of food is something Chipotle understands better than most fast-food chains. Nonetheless, the quick-serve burrito chain wanted to find a way to reduce the environmental impact of their plastic glove use and has come up with a way to turn those gloves into the trash bin liners they use, creating a closed-loop for some of their discarded plastic.

Chipotle started the glove recycling program last year, piloting the program in some of their Portland, Oregon stores, and they have since expanded it to Sacramento, California. 43% of their restaurants now use liners produced by plastic upcycling.

According to Chipotle, the restaurant industry uses about 200 million plastic gloves daily, and nearly none of them get recycled. Chipotle developed the upcycling program as part of their broader sustainability goals, which includes reducing the amount of their landfill-bound rubbish to 15% of total waste. They developed the glove upcycling program with Revolution Bags, an organization that takes agricultural polyethylene irrigation tubing (something used for just one season ) to make trash bag liners as well.

Although it’s always best to avoid plastic, especially single-use, there are times when handling food when that is not feasible-and no alternative exists. In such cases, it makes sense to upcycle the used plastic and divert it from landfills, making it perhaps the next best thing.

[Editor's note: an earlier version of this article stated that Chipotle implemented this program in nearly half of its stores throughout the US. This was incorrect, as the Program is only active in Portland, OR and Sacramento, CA.]

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