Packaging and Recycling Stories

Around the world, we’re working hard to reduce packaging, innovate in sustainable materials, and enable and promote recycling in restaurants and communities. It’s a big challenge and we rely on trusted partnerships to achieve success.

Scaling up with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition


We are proud to be the first restaurant company to join How2Recycle, a program within the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). Working with other businesses and organizations, we’re looking at on-packaging messaging, proven to be the most effective way of informing customers about recycling.

In 2014, we printed the SPC logo, approved by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, on our paper carryout bag, and have since printed it on other items, such as Happy Meal cartons, plastic McCafé cups and plastic carryout bags. Recognizing the power of on-packaging logos, our supplier HAVI worked with the SPC and the Biodegradable Products Institute to come up with a How2Compost logo, which we now show on our compostable packaging.


Unlocking the value in waste paper and plastic


There is significant value hidden in discarded paper and plastic food packaging like cups, takeout containers and paper carryout bags. We’ve set ourselves the challenge of unlocking this value by partnering with the Foodservice Packaging Institute in North America.

After several years of thorough research and work with communities, material recovery facilities and end markets, the Institute’s dedicated plastics and paper working groups have launched community partnerships in Washington, D.C., Chattanooga and Louisville. With financial and technical support from the Institute, residents are now able to recycle paper and plastic foodservice packaging along with other recyclables in their curbside collections.


Cutting paper, not trees


We have a global commitment to eliminate deforestation from our global supply chains. Our Commitment includes conserving forests and high conservation value areas, avoiding the most negative impacts of deforestation, and promoting responsible production through our fiber sourcing policy that benefits people, communities and the planet. By 2020 we will have Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification in all high-risk countries to help eliminate deforestation from our fiber-based consumer packaging supply chain.

In 2015, our Brazilian operations achieved full certification under FSC, with the exception of cups, and McDonald’s Canada moved to 100% Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)-certified hot cups. Our restaurants in the U.S. completed a transition to FSC-certified fiber for all hot cups in 2016, which now proudly show off the FSC logo.


Rethinking packaging, U.K.


Redesigning our packaging can make a big impact. Each day our teams are finding better ways to reduce the amount of material we use in our packaging and to increase its recycled or renewable content. Our napkins and cup carriers are made from 100% recycled materials, and we have a minimum 40% recycled content in our plastic cups. McDonald’s U.K. restaurants are currently running trials to change straws from plastic to paper, which can be recycled, and, like all of the paper or card packaging in the U.K., are verified as coming from a certified sustainable source by the FSC or PEFC.

In looking for ways to reduce packaging, our packaging suppliers have designed a new certified fiber container with folding lid for our McFlurry, which we’re currently using in Australia and piloting across Europe.


Keeping Britain tidy


McDonald’s UK is an active supporter of the UK’s anti-litter groups like Keep Britain Tidy, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Keep Wales Tidy and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful. Since 2011, we’ve organized over 2,600 litter events, engaging 78,000 colleagues and community members in litter prevention.

We’re committed to tackling litter in every community that we serve. Restaurant employees and Franchisees take pride in the appearance of their local communities and as a responsible business, it’s important we do our part. We do this in as many different ways as we can, from daily litter patrols to regular local clean-up events. Since 1982, our U.K. restaurant teams have been going out every day to collect litter that’s been dropped in the local areas around McDonald’s restaurants. They pick up every piece of litter that they see, not just McDonald’s packaging. It’s estimated that employees walk over 150,000 miles a year ensuring communities are litter free.


Reducing food waste in the Netherlands


For 25 years, we’ve been separating and recycling kitchen waste in the Netherlands. Today, we collect cardboard, plastic, plastic PET bottles, used cooking oil, food waste, coffee grounds and certain chemical wastes. Moreover, around half of this recycling brings in additional revenue to the business.

As a member of the Dutch Taskforce on Circular Economy in Food, McDonald’s Netherlands works with industry partners to exchange best practices on reducing food waste, both in our supply chain and in our restaurants. We’ve now reduced kitchen food waste by 50%!

At the same time, McDonald’s Netherlands is working with Stichting NederlandSchoon, an organization that works with public and private partners to prevent and reduce litter. Together, we’ve optimized the design of our parking lots to make sure the right bins are available for our guests whenever they might want to use them. Our crew empties and cleans the bins regularly, and picks up litter more than 25 meters around our restaurants. Yearly, many restaurants participate in National Cleanup Day to raise awareness on litter within their communities.


Eating out in Taiwan just became more sustainable


With around 8,500 tons of paper used in our packaging across Taiwan every year, achieving the FSC stamp of approval on packaging in nearly 400 restaurants is a big milestone. First applied to napkins in 2015, we engaged around 20 suppliers to expand FSC Chain of Custody certification to paper bags and cups in 2017. Since the end of 2017, more than 50 packaging items are FSC certified. In a country where eating out is the norm, this is big news.

While tackling paper sustainability, we’re also finding ways to reduce packaging altogether. We’ve been trialling ways to optimize packaging, such as “clamshell” boxes (saving 42 tons of paper a year) and using bags over boxes for nuggets. By using lighter bags, we’ve saved 120 tons of fiber each year, while lightweight cutlery is saving 4 tons of resin. And plastic cups and bowls for sundaes, drinks and salads are now made of biodegradable materials.