Eliminating Waste

While making it easy for customers to sort and recycle their meal packaging in our restaurants, we’re also going behind the scenes in our kitchens and supply chain. We’re working with suppliers to reduce, reuse and recycle in farms and factories, across our value chain.

 

 

Why it matters

The UN estimates that every year, a third of all food produced is either discarded, by consumers or retailers, or spoiled due to poor handling. If food loss and waste were its own country, it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter. This is an important issue for our customers, our communities and our business.

It’s simply not right that good food and precious resources go to waste, and we want to use our scale to help tackle the issue.

 

On this page:

Our approach | Our actions

 

Our approach

 

Our work shows that each form of waste involves its own issues and has its own unique solutions, so we believe our most effective role is to build momentum around different aspects of packaging, food waste and recycling through a variety of actions and more targeted goals, including customer-facing initiatives, community programs and working with our suppliers. We recently announced the latest step in this ongoing journey: our 2025 goals to improve our packaging and reduce lobby waste.

Our efforts to eliminate waste in our kitchens and supply chain support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, specifically:

As well as these, we’ve mapped our Scale for Good initiatives to all 17 goals.

 

Food waste

We want to ensure that our food serves its purpose of feeding people. In several countries, we’ve started working with our suppliers to reduce food loss and waste in our supply chains and with our Franchisees to reduce food going to waste in restaurants, but recognize that there is a lot more to be done.

In the U.S., the McDonald’s Food Donation Program in partnership with Food Donation Connection has 785 registered restaurants and has donated over 370,000 pounds of food to charities in need, as of January 2018.

To begin scaling some of these initiatives, we are working on a Global Food Disposition Policy, which will encourage our suppliers and distributors globally to dispose of food in alignment with the food waste hierarchy, including enabling food donations to be made where possible.

 

Less is more: our food waste hierarchy

(Adapted from EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy)

Step 1: Avoid creating food waste. Work with farmers, suppliers and restaurant staff to improve efficiency and avoid creating food waste in the first place. Step 2: Give it to families in need. Partner with charities, food banks and shelters to ensure all edible food goes to families in need. Step 3: Make animal feed. When our food isn’t fresh enough to donate to families, turn it into animal feed. Step 4: Recover energy from food waste. Use anaerobic digestion to convert food waste, including egg shells and coffee grounds, into gas for energy. Step 5: Make compost for food production. Convert unavoidable food waste into compost for farms and gardens. Step 6: Last resort. We see landfill or incineration only as a last resort.

 

Other kitchen waste

Around the world, our restaurants recycle kitchen waste materials, such as cooking oils, polyethylene foils, and corrugate or cardboard used in packaging, all of which can be turned into useful new resources. In Europe, countries have regularly reviewed roadmaps to minimize waste, with annual tracking to monitor progress. At the end of 2016, an average of 29% of total waste by weight from restaurants in 12 countries was being recycled.

Our actions

 

Fired up with cooking oil

Our long-term objective is to eliminate food and packaging waste to landfill. Our logistics providers can play a key role by collecting and backhauling the waste when they drop off the supplies at the restaurants. This not only helps recycle material from restaurants in remote locations but it also reduces road mileage because a waste company doesn’t have to collect.

In the U.K., our logistics partner’s fleet runs on biodiesel; around 40% of which is from our used cooking oil. That’s a saving of over 6,500 metric tons of GHG emissions.

 

Round in circles

In the U.K., food waste from kitchens is taken to an anaerobic digestion plant which makes renewable energy. Microorganisms break down the food, turning it into bio-fertilizer for farmers, and biogas for the national grid and dairy businesses, where heat is used to pasteurize the milk and power the packing lines. Fresh organic milk is then transported to McDonald’s restaurants across the U.K. – the full circle!

 

Foodbank, Australia

In Australia, we’re working with logistics partner Martin Brower Australia to support Foodbank, a nonprofit organization that provides food to charities and community groups. The partnership has resulted in regular donations of surplus food to Foodbank’s recipients, avoiding it being sent to landfill.