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First off, the meal that our buddies Ria and Maggie brought around was fantastic.

It was for the Oscars. I know, not cool, but I’m a sucker for that thing. "I want to thank my mom for making me the incredible person I am" etc etc. The speeches, the clichés about movies changing us. But it gives you ideas by the minute for the script that’ll get you standing up there this time next year.

Whatever, yes, Mag had stopped off at El Pollo Loco (1535 Palm Avenue, Imperial Beach, 619-423-6912) on the way over, and bought one 12-piece mixed traditional chicken meal ($28.86). Easily enough for four. It included large pots of mash, rice, and veggies, with six flour tortillas, meaning six lots of two tortillas each.

So as Harvey Weinstein’s French silent movie collected award after award, we laid everything out. And laid it out. And laid…


Here’s the point. Apart from the race – this always happens – to get the best skins from the thighs and breasts (okay, I’m one of the worst), and how we're all carnivores at heart...


The 12-piece chicken mix


Ria watches Maggie attack a chicken breast

...the thing that hit me about this meal was…plastic.

I laid out all the plastic that came with the meal. Fourteen cups and pots (11 plastic, 3 polystyrene), 14 plastic caps, four plastic knives and forks, and six plastic tortilla bags plus the overall plastic bag, I mean, beautifully presented and organized, but come on, we’re looking at 39 pieces of plastic for one take-out?


All this for a one-time 20 minute use?

And these are petroleum-based products that could last for what? Five, ten, 1,000 years? And we use them once, for, like, twenty minutes, and then toss them?

The receipt says this was order #402. Let’s say Mag was the last customer, and no way she was, but let’s just say she was. So 400 customers a day, times 7 days, times 4 weeks, times 12 months…d’uh, that’s 134,400 customers a year.

Let’s say Mag’s order is average. So 400 orders with more-or-less this kinda outlay of plastic. That’s 134,400 times 39, which is 5,241,600 pots and lids and bags come out of this store every year.

Five million. And Wikipedia says they have 450 locations. So 5,241,600 times 450 is 2 billion, 358 million, 724,000 pieces of plastic pouring out from El Pollo Loco every year. Nearly 2-1/2 billion pieces of plastic.

So let's be charitable and say El Pollo Loco throws 2 billion plastic cups and bags at us a year. Now let's go to McDonalds and Burger King and...uh, let's not. Head's swimming already.

And we wonder why we’re running out of oil?

There's gotta be a better way to deliver take-out.

Is this crazy waste, or is this just me being crazy?

Oh, by the way, did I say? The non-plastic part was totally delicious.

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Ian Pike Feb. 27, 2012 @ 3:19 p.m.

Thanks for writing this, Ed. It's cocktail napkin math at its most glorious, but your point about the profligate use of disposable stuff rings out.

I once did a similar estimate for how many extra styrofoam cups got used up by Dunkin Donuts because the chain had this irritating practice: people order iced coffee when it's cold as hell out (not real coffee drinkers, natch) and then need a styrofoam cup to hold the plastic cup with so their hands don't freeze. Seriously. The estimated waste was mind boggling.

I think it's pretty hilarious in the era of "green business" that ridiculous things like what you got from Pollo Loco are still happening. I guess if we sell a few electric cars then we can still use plastic like it springs magically out of thin air?

I dunno. Head spins like you say. Nice thing to point out though, so thanks!


Ed Bedford Feb. 27, 2012 @ 3:51 p.m.

Thanks Ian. Yes, you can't escape the feeling that we're Mother Earth's spoilt rotten kids.


Ian Pike Feb. 27, 2012 @ 4:18 p.m.

Gotta say, that salsa spread looks killer, plastic or otherwise.


Ed Bedford Feb. 28, 2012 @ 1:40 a.m.

Yes, it was a truly great and generous variety. You can tell this chain was born in Mexico. So what's the answer?


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