McDonalds in the UK and Ireland has reduced its plastic usage to where it represents just 8% of food packaging.
This, according to Helen McFarlane, sustainability consultant for the restaurant chain.
McFarlane was speaking at the annual Recoup Plastics Recycling and Resourcing conference, held at the KingsGate Conference Centre in Peterborough.
The plastic has largely been replaced by fibre packaging, said McFarlane. “McDonalds packaging needs to be sustainable. We will innovate where possible to get ahead,” she said.
The fast food brand is looking to source all packaging material from sustainable sources by 2025.
In addition to sustainability, the move to drop plastic has been driven by a variety of influences, including legislation and customer impact.
Further, McFarlane added that the switch to fibre was due to the lack of availability of a suitable, recyclable plastic alternative.
Where fibre is used for liquids, the cups are produced using fibre with a plastic lining. Cups represent 30% of all packaging by volume. The restaurant has worked with recyclers and suppliers, including Ace UK, Simply Cups and DS Smith to ensure the cups can be efficiently processed.
In addition, McDonalds has worked with Costa Coffee, Nero and Greggs to ensure cups are uniform, to further support recycling.
Elimination of plastic has included removing the tops for McFlurry frozen desserts. These, though, still include a plastic spoon. “We’ve not found a way to replicate the product without a soft, non-recyclable plastic spoon,” explained McFarlane.
The company made the switch from plastic to paper straws, but McFarlane pointed out that to begin with, even the paper versions were not recyclable. Now, they are included with the cups for recycling.
Closing, she added: “Happy Meal toys are a thing, they’re out there and they’re a problem. But we don’t have all the answers right now.”