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How Yum China Holdings Is Embracing Sustainability in World’s Most Populous Country


Yum China Holdings is striving to drive “meaningful change” on the environmental front in the world’s most populous country of nearly 1.4 billion people.

The licensee of Yum! Brands in mainland China has launched a series of plastic reduction and environmentally friendly packaging initiatives across its brands in line with the latest regulations in China. This includes replacing existing plastic packaging with paper straws, paper bags and biodegradable plastic bags.

Yum China Holdings has exclusive rights in mainland China to KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Yum China also owns the Little Sheep, Huang Ji Huang, East Dawning, and COFFii & JOY foodservice brands. The company has about 10,150 restaurants in over 1,400 Chinese cities.

As a result of its new sustainable initiatives, Yum China Holdings said it expects a reduction of about 8,000 tons of non-degradable plastics annually starting from 2021.

KFC China recently launched a “Be Natural, Be You” sustainability campaign to enhance consumers’ awareness of environmental protection and encourage more sustainable lifestyles, including reducing the use of disposable plastic packaging and better waste sorting. Beginning this month, all KFC restaurants in mainland China will stop using plastic straws and over 90% of KFC restaurants will replace disposable plastic cutlery with wooden cutlery for dine-in and takeout. In addition, non-degradable plastic bags used for delivery and takeaway in over 50% KFC restaurants will be replaced with paper bags or biodegradable plastic bags. By the end of 2025, all KFC restaurants will phase out non-degradable plastic bags and cutlery in mainland China.

As of the end of 2020, all Pizza Hut restaurants in mainland China have eliminated the use of plastic straws. At the same time, over 70% of Pizza Hut restaurants across the country have replaced existing plastic bags with paper bags or biodegradable plastic bags. Pizza Hut will also eliminate the use of non-degradable plastic bags by the end of 2022.

In addition to complying with regulatory requirements, Yum China Holdings said its latest actions reflect a company-wide packaging strategy that aims to reduce disposable packaging from source through the use of new packaging solutions, new materials, as well as innovative technologies. The strategy includes ensuring that all customer-facing, plastic-based packaging is recyclable, refusing to purchase paper products from suppliers that knowingly cause deforestation, and working towards a 30% reduction on non-degradable plastic packaging weight by 2025.

“The new plastic reduction initiatives reinforce our sustainability strategy to drive meaningful change through packaging innovation and reduction.” said Joey Wat, CEO of Yum China Holdings. “In line with our long-term commitment of supporting economic, social and environmental development, we are committed to working with customers, partners, and all other stakeholders to promote a more sustainable future.”

Guided by its Sustainability 4R Principles (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Replace), Yum China Holdings said it has been exploring more eco-friendly materials and designs to reduce disposable packaging from source of use and seek behavioral change among the public. Since 2017, KFC China has provided a “No Cutlery” option for customers when placing an order via its app to encourage customers to reduce the use of disposable packaging. In addition, KFC China rolled out reusable serving baskets in 2019, which saved more than 2,000 tons of paper packaging and reduced restaurant waste in 2019 by about 20%. In addition to the reusable serving basket program, KFC China launched the Grassland Restoration Initiative in 2019, which encouraged over 200,000 people to give their support to the restoration of more than 1 million square meters of grassland in Inner Mongolia.