McDonald's latest move promises to provide its famous food with an environmentally-friendly twist, a move that will transform the fast food industry.
The Golden Arches announced Tuesday that 100% of guest packaging (wrappers, cups, and other packaging) will come from renewable, recycled, or certified sources by 2025. It also set a goal to recycle guest packaging in 100% of McDonald's restaurants by 2025, and to rid all its restaurants worldwide of foam packaging by the end of 2018.
The company says it is making this move in response to customer demand for more environmentally sustainable products and its desire to help reduce waste to create a positive community impact.
"Our customers have told us that packaging waste is the top environmental issue they would like us to address. Our ambition is to make changes our customers want and to use less packaging, sourced responsibly and designed to be taken care of after use," McDonald's chief supply chain and sustainability officer Francesca DeBiase said in a statement.
In the United States alone, some estimates project that McDonald's sells more than 1 billion pounds of beef and upward of 500 million cups of coffee per year. Globally, it also sells more than nine million pounds of French fries every day.
With its massive food sales comes a significant amount of paper, polystyrene and foam packaging and containers. It is currently estimated that McDonald's uses almost 1.5 million tons of packaging worldwide every year, but only about 50% of the containers and wrappers come from recycled, renewable or certified materials.
Additionally, only 10% of McDonald's restaurants offer bins for customers to recycle their trash.
McDonald's said it plans to collaborate with local governments and environmental associations on better packaging designs, new recycling programs and employee and customer education plans to reach these goals in under 20 years.
As the fast food giant shifts to the use of sustainable goods, it is expected that competitors will be led to follow suit.
"This sends an important message to other quick service food companies who may still be using foam," Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president of environmentally-focused As You Sow, told Inc. "We also hope McDonald's will next turn its attention to other single use items like plastic straws and cup lids that pose hazards to marine animals and add to the tsunami of plastic waste afflicting world oceans."
The nation's largest restaurant company — which has faced criticism on a variety of societal issues in the past, including food safety and animal treatment, childhood obesity and low wages — hopes to make a positive impact within its own company and throughout the food service industry.
"We look forward to doing more and continuing to raise the bar on what it means to be a responsible company committed to people and the planet," DeBiase said.