Food waste at restaurants is nothing new. For every business like Detroit’s PizzaPlex that manages its menu and purchasing to minimize waste, there are hundreds like McDonald’s, Panera Bread, and Krispy Kreme throwing out perfectly good food at closing time.
But Pret A Manger claims to be different by putting all its leftovers to good use. “We’ve always tried to reduce the waste from our shops,” says the Pret website. “We take surplus food to shelters and give it to the people who need it most. For some, it’s their only meal of the day. We do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
That’s not what TikToker Anna Sacks (@thetrashwalker) found when browsing through the restaurant’s garbage, though. Sacks posted the video of her find publicly in January, and it recently surpassed 4 million views.
“Anyone want any of this?” asks an individual in the video, opening a huge garbage bag stuffed with unopened, individually wrapped sandwiches and salad bowls.
“Yeah!” says Sacks. “Lunch for tomorrow!”
@thetrashwalker Pret & Lulu #nyc #donate #donatedontdump #dumpsterdiving #haul #vintage #shopping #recycle #climatechange #reuse #thrift #decor #free #zerowaste #eco #sustainable #ecofriendly #food #foodie #lululemon #lulu ♬ Raindrop Prélude – Chopin
The duo also visits Lululemon, where they find a cardboard box full of branded, reusable grocery bags — the same bags the store offers in an effort to reduce plastic waste from single-use bags. “Unclear why they were tossed,” Sacks says, noting that they’re unused and still packed in bundles.
“The irony of reusable shopping bags being thrown away like that,” said one commenter.
Pret drew criticism in 2018 when an undercover reporter detailed many problems at one location, including “heaps of food being binned.” This may have contributed to the company’s aforementioned anti-waste initiatives, but they may still have work to do. Lululemon, meanwhile, has a similar page on its website with admirable sustainability goals, but those goals don’t always align with what’s practiced at a given retail location.
Companies being wasteful while claiming to help the community and environment is the definition of greenwashing. These examples from Pret and Lululemon could certainly be exceptions to the two chains’ usual practices, but they’re solid cases of how false or exaggerated claims can mislead customers trying to make responsible choices. They wind up supporting the exact kinds of business practices they want to avoid — like businesses throwing out usable products, which raises prices for consumers, denies individuals access to the items, and creates more pollution as manufacturers have to produce more inventory to keep up.
“Wait, isn’t Pret A Manger’s whole deal that they donate food?!” asked one angry commenter. “I feel so deceived.”
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