McDonald’s Anti-littering Efforts: How Norway & the UK are Helping to Clean Up Communities

McDonalds Norway team picking up trash

June 26, 2024

Helping to keep communities clean and protect the planet for future generations is key to McDonald’s packaging and waste strategies. 

Despite systemic challenges, like recycling infrastructure limitations, McDonald’s markets around the world are working to address packaging waste in new and creative ways that best meet their local capabilities. Anti-littering efforts have played an important role in embracing our responsibility to care for the planet, with two markets – Norway and the UK – serving as powerful examples of how small steps can lead to big impact.

Keeping Norway Clean

McDonald's Norway team picking up trash

To address littering, McDonald’s Norway started with education on how, where and why littering occurs. In collaboration with a local organization, Keep Norway Clean, restaurants leveraged insights on littering behaviors to shift the restaurant experience to better prevent packaging waste displacement.

One method to reduce littering that was adopted was the reduction of short-term packaging. McDonald’s Norway identified packaging that did not need to be automatically included in each order, such as straws, lids and cup holders, and shifted to offering these items by request only. This simple switch saved nearly 7,000 straws and over 5,000 lids in just one restaurant over the course of just two weeks. 

McDonald’s Norway also embraces litter clean-up efforts and are launching a new pilot project in 2024 to understand how much littering restaurants create and how they can improve or change clean-up routines to reduce waste. 

40+ Years of Anti-littering Efforts in the UK

McDonald's Norway team picking up trash

In 1982, McDonald’s UK was the first restaurant company to introduce “litter patrols,” in which employees went out every day to collect litter within each restaurant’s vicinity. 

This small act has become a standard practice in the UK, with teams going out three times a day to cover 150 meters around the restaurant to keep the local area clean and tidy. Many UK restaurants also work within their communities to identify hotspots outside the restaurant’s area to expand clean-up efforts. Overall, teams walk an estimated 3,000 miles per week doing litter patrols.

Anti-littering efforts contribute to McDonald’s UK’s Plan for Change platform, which maps out ambitions to help lead change across four key areas – People, Planet, Restaurants and Food. As part of this efforts, McDonald’s UK identified Plan for Change Champions, or restaurant crew members who go above and beyond to advance sustainability and anti-littering efforts. One such hero is Claire Thompson from the Upper Gornal restaurant. Claire organized a large-scale litter pick in 2023, engaging volunteers from her community and local government officials. She also ran a six-week workshop in collaboration with a local secondary school, arranging for students to join weekly litter picks, fostering a sense of community and impacting positive change.

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