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12 foods that are bad for the planet

fast food bag

Photo: Rogelio V. Solis/AP

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Fast food

Fast food is hurting more than just our waistlines. A typical fast-food meal often comes with overly packaged food, straws and plasticware, and an assortment of individually wrapped condiments. According to Californians Against Waste, less than 35 percent of fast-food waste is diverted from landfills even though most of it is recyclable paper and cardboard. So it’s no surprise that litter characterization studies have identified fast-food restaurants as the primary source of urban litter.

But it’s not just the packaging that’s a problem. A recent Hong Kong study found that a fast-food restaurant making four hamburgers emits the same amount of volatile organic compounds as driving a car 1,000 miles. If you calculate the carbon footprint of a cheeseburger, you’re in for a real shock: The greenhouse gas emissions arising each year from the production and consumption of cheeseburgers is roughly the amount emitted by 6.5 million to 19.6 million SUVs.