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Banning drive-through restaurants has huge environmental and public health benefits

Posted August 22, 2018

We‘ve all been there. It is late, you‘re lazy and you are hungry. You‘re not going to cook or dress up and go out to a restaurant. Instead you are going to choose the comfort of your car and go to a drive-through. This is all nice and good, but scientists have determined that banning drive-throughs actually benefits the community and not just because of reduction of trash and noise.

Drive-throughs offer an easy way to get fast food, but banning them presents great environmental and public health benefits. Image credit: Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler/Grid Engine via Wikimedia

Drive-throughs offer a great amount of comfort and convenience, but a lot of people take advantage of them irresponsibly. They litter, they come there late at night, they are inconsiderate to the neighbourhood and they gain too much weight. Several local governments in Canada have banned or limited fast food drive-throughs mainly for aesthetic reasons, but scientists from the University of Alberta now say that it may offer a huge public health benefit as well. Author of the study says that although the ban is quite minimal, it has a wide-spread effect.

Most of these bans are in large, densely populated areas where 24 % of Canadian population lives. This means that these bans affect a large group of people, which is especially important in terms of public health. However, these laws are introduced because of other reasons, such as economic, environmental or urban design considerations. Local governments are trying to avoid the trash, idling vehicles, traffic and noise. Drive-throughs can only be established in fast food restaurants that have small menus and food can be ready in minutes. Banning them puts fast food restaurants on an equal playing field to many healthier food places. Scientists say that in this way these laws are not limiting the choice, but expanding it – you just have to be willing to step out of your car.

Scientists say that this could be an example for future policies in other areas as well. Candace Nykiforuk, author of the study, said: “What’s really encouraging is that, whether or not a ban takes off, what we are seeing is a real interest from municipalities to promote quality of life. Whether it’s drive-through bans or something else, these kinds of things collectively are going to improve health in communities”. Scientists say that the effects may be similar in principle to the no-smoking movement started in the late ’70s, when smoking was forbidden in certain areas.

Yeah, of course drive-throughs are nice if you don’t have to live near one. But being presented with such an easy option people may not even consider healthier restaurants. However, it remains to be seen if this kind of bans would work outside of North America.


Source: University of Alberta

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