Junk food is a big part of our lives now. We only give it up when we have a health concern. However, what we don’t realize is that junk food and fast food comes with a huge carbon footprint too. We investigate the reasons why you should avoid junk food if you have an environmental concern.
All kinds of junk food comes packaged in plastic or aluminum based wrappers that are near-unrecyclable and take thousands of years to decompose in landfills. Every order from a fast food restaurant comes with 2-3 disposable paper napkins, a drink in a plastic cup with a plastic lid and plastic straw, single use paper packaging and a discount coupons or promotional flyers. Even if paper waste can be recycled, it is a mindless waste that can be saved if you chose to eat a healthy meal in restaurants that serve food on reusable dishes.
Junk food is usually manufactured in big, electricity consuming facilities and is transported around the world on ships, airplanes, trains and trucks. If you have a green bent of mind, this amount of carbon emission for a single packet of chips or a bar of candy would be a terrible and totally avoidable addition to your personal carbon footprint.
Polluting manufacturing processes
Junk food is manufactured using large machines that use grid power to run. Even components of fast food are manufactured in such facilities and companies often transport their sauces and specially made buns etc. around the world to keep their recipes a secret. In comparison to a healthy meal at home, these manufacturing processes are very polluting.
To maintain high quality in their products, junk food manufacturers and stores selling them discard a lot of a raw materials as well as final products. More often than not, this means that all misshapen potatoes are simply thrown out to avoid ugly looking fries and chips, a hamburger order with the wrong kind of sauce is discarded and all meats and sauces that look “suspicious” are promptly thrown out. In terms of GHG emissions, food waste from junk food manufacturers and fast food chains is astonishingly high.
Bad farming practices
Most fast food chains and potato chips manufacturers claim that their crispy chips and crunchy fries are obtained from a particular kind of potato. This results in very cash-oriented farming practices where farmers are forced to grow only one kind of crop year in and year out using chemical fertilizers to keep the nutrition content of the soil and fuel propelled machinery is used to plant and harvest these crops. When you consume junk food, you are basically supporting bad and polluting farming practices.