McDonald’s is eliminating disposable packaging

The brand has designed ceramic cones for French fries and burgers, and recyclable paper packaging will replace disposable boxes. Credit: McDonald’s

From next January 1, Agec law will ban single-use cutlery for on-site catering.

Farewell fries, Coca-Cola cups, sundae cups and other cardboard burger boxes. In a few months, they will be replaced in all McDonald’s restaurants in France with their reusable equivalents. For french fries, brand ceramic cups are designed, and they are still red and yellow; Drinks and ice cream will be served in glass containers, surrounded by the famous brand “M”; For burgers, recyclable paper packaging will replace disposable boxes.

from 1Verse Next January, the Agec (Anti-Waste for the Circular Economy) Act will ban single-use cutlery (even if it’s cardboard) in fast-food establishments with more than 20 covers for on-site meals. Less than five months before that crucial deadline, McDonald’s appears to have improved its reusable cutlery strategy.

A scale that the brand eagerly awaits: with around 1,500 restaurants in France, it is the undisputed leader in fast food. In 2017, it was selected by the Zero Waste France association for waste management: approximately 115 tons of single-use packaging is used daily in France, or 42,000 tons per year. According to Ademe, the fast food sector produces up to 220,000 tons per year.

After the adoption of the Agec Act, in 2020, the company took drastic measures, for example to respond to the ban on plastic straws: as of 2019, it simply decided not to distribute straws at all, modifying the beverage cap. So their customers can drink soda without having to remove it. McDow continued to remove the plastic sheeting. She replaced some salad bowls with molded fiber models, disposable plastic cutlery with wooden ones, and even dropped plastic toys from her kids’ menu…

There remained disposable dishes and wrappers. A more difficult step to implement, especially since it goes against what made McDonald’s success at its origins: simple, recognizable packaging, which can be discarded once used. For this little revolution, and despite there being more than secret communications, the brand has strived to innovate.

40% less waste

The new methods were tested for several months in more than two dozen restaurants across France, such as Châtelet-en-Brie (Seine-et-Marne), where the restaurant introduced the new crockery in June, with a plunge installation. According to its manager, the shift will represent 40% less waste. “We have tried many solutions, and we think we have found the best one with our reusable cutlery, says a brand spokesperson. But the regulation remains ubiquitous in France. We prefer networking at the national level once it’s up and running.”

We’ve tried many solutions, and we think we’ve found the best one with our reusable cutlery

McDonald’s spokesperson

Ultimately, these packaging savings could prevent 8000 tons of waste annually. As part of the brand’s “zero plastic” strategy, this could result in the reduction of 10,000 tons of plastic.

Much remains to be done to equip 1500 McDonald’s in France. In most Parisian restaurants, we haven’t switched to reusable packages. Perhaps because it involves making arrangements in the kitchen, which is difficult when space is at a premium. In the city, pushing walls can be sometimes complicated or even impossible, not to mention the problems sometimes associated with architectural limitations, Steve Protein, who specializes in these questions, explains these questions on the specialized site Snacking.fr. The cost may seem just as important: buying a basin, hiring additional staff…” So far, most restaurants converting to reusable packaging are located on the outskirts of major cities or in areas of lower density.

Restaurants may find it difficult to make a return on their investment. Customers are used to throwing away packages. They may do the same with glassware or they may also be inclined to steal it. We fear up to 25% loss. A problem that the filing system can solve, according to some specialists. It will still be necessary to convince customers to put in a few dozen cents before drinking a cola and tasting their sundae …

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