McDonald’s launches innovative ‘Better M’ platform to showcase packaging & recycling solutions and Europe-wide customer trials

November 14, 2019

Today, McDonald’s announced a wide-ranging programme to remove and minimise plastic and improve recyclability in packaging across Europe. The plan comprises removal of McFlurry lids across every European country in which McDonald’s operates and the rollout of a new fibre-based lid across all cold drinks in France, as well as trials across markets for alternatives to the plastic McFlurry spoon, a redesigned paper straw, and toy take-back programs.

The packaging trials form part of McDonald’s global ‘Better M’ platform, which aims to implement environmentally positive changes across McDonald’s sustainable packaging and recycling supply chain as well as the customer experience.

McDonald’s will launch the trials through existing restaurants across Europe, using its scale to expand successful country trials across the continent. Selected restaurants across Europe will serve as testing grounds, bringing innovative packaging concepts direct to consumers. The feedback collected will inform which options are scaled up or adapted. The model allows McDonald’s to find the sustainable solutions customers want, while delivering the great experience they know and love.

Currently, 78% of packaging used by McDonald’s globally is made from fibre. This figure increases for its European markets where fibre comprises approximately 88% of all packaging and plastic only 12%. The steps taken by McDonald’s today will have a further impact on removal of plastics from its packaging system:

  • More than 1,200 tonnes of plastic per year will be saved through a makeover of McFlurry packaging which eliminates the need for a separate plastic lid. This change will be fully implemented across Europe by the end of 2020
  • Approximately 1,200 tonnes of plastic per year will be saved through the introduction of a fibre lid for all cold drinks in France. The new fibre lids are made from 100% certified sustainable sources and recyclable materials
  • Trials are being conducted for plastic-free McFlurry spoons. Wooden and paper alternatives are being tested, in a bid to find the material that meets customer preferences, operational functionality and sustainability
  • An evolved paper straw will be rolling out across Europe. Following feedback from customers, and as the packaging industry has evolved, the paper straws being rolled out are now stronger while remaining made of fully recyclable materials. Several markets, including Italy and Portugal, only offer straws on request to cut down material use

In addition to eliminating plastic and switching to more sustainable materials, McDonald’s is also focused on making the packaging it uses easier to recycle and reuse:

  • On average, over 60% of our restaurants in eight of McDonald’s largest European markets are already providing recycling for guest packaging. The UK currently stands at 90%, with Germany close behind at 89% of restaurants. By 2025, McDonald’s goal is to recycle guest packaging in 100% of its restaurants globally
  • In Europe, McDonald’s has achieved its commitment on fibre. By 2020, 100% of primary fibre-based guest packaging will come from recycled or certified sources where no deforestation occurs
  • McDonald’s Germany is currently piloting a programme called ReCup, where customers can ask for a reusable coffee cup and return it at partnering McDonald’s restaurant or other participating restaurants to be cleaned and reused
  • From this week, in the UK customers can return used Happy Meal toys to a select number of restaurants so that they can be recycled in a new toy take-back trial
  • In the Netherlands, restaurants offer recycled paper masks as part of the Happy Meal instead of balloons. Belgium is now introducing paper masks, following great feedback in the Netherlands
  • Customers in Ukraine can eat the cup they receive their Sundae in – it’s made of waffle

These announcements demonstrate action towards McDonald’s global Scale for Good commitments, which launched last year and include an ambition to source all guest packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025.  Today, McDonald’s is approximately 60% of the way towards achieving this goal globally. 

Keith Kenny, Vice President of Global Sustainability at McDonald’s said “We care about lessening our impact on the environment and know our customers do too. That’s why we’re finding new and innovative ways to reduce our use of packaging, switch to more sustainable materials and help our customers to reuse and recycle, too. The trials we are conducting across Europe are vital in helping us get first-hand feedback from customers on solutions that help them to be conscious consumers, without compromising on quality and the McDonald’s experience they love. Better M is a powerful platform to allow us to work with our customers and choose the right solutions to scale up across Europe.”

Notes to Editors:

Removal of McFlurry lid: The removal of the McFlurry lid applies to McDonald’s restaurants in the following countries: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Ukraine.

Primary guest packaging refers to products that are used to package guest food on premises at McDonald’s restaurants. This type of packaging includes containers, cups, wraps, bags for food, beverages, napkins, and cup carriers. The goal excludes food packaged off-site, wood, and limited locally sourced items.  

McDonald’s toy take-back trials in UK: Customers will be able to return used Happy Meal toys, as well as other plastic toys, to seven restaurants across the UK so that they can be recycled in a new toy take-back trial.

More information on McDonald’s Scale for Good commitments: 

As the world’s largest restaurant company, we have the responsibility and opportunity to take action on some of the most pressing social and environmental challenges in the world. We know that our global supply chain can have a significant impact on the planet. And we’re constantly improving our sourcing, packaging and transportation processes to lessen that footprint. When you operate over 38,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries serving 69 million people each day, even small changes can make a big difference.

Our customers tell us that their number one environmental concern for us to address is the environmental impact of McDonald’s restaurant packaging and waste. We’re listening.

The latest steps in this ongoing journey are our 2025 goals to improve our packaging and reduce waste:

  • By 2025, 100% of McDonald’s guest packaging will come from renewable, recycled or certified sources.
  • By 2025, our goal is to recycle guest packaging in 100% of McDonald’s restaurants. We understand that recycling infrastructure, regulations and consumer behaviours vary from city to city and country to country, but we plan to be part of the solution and help influence powerful change.

Together with employees, Franchisees and suppliers, the Company is committing to use our Scale for Good to make changes our customers want and that will have a meaningful impact in the communities we serve.

You can read more about our Scale for Good commitments here:

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