McDonald's to Drop Foam Packaging by End of This Year

Plastic foam cups that keep drinks ice cold at McDonald's are in the hot seat at the fast food company, which says it will "eliminate foam packaging from our global system by the end of 2018."

The world’s largest restaurant operator quietly disclosed the decision on its website, along with its plan to use “100 percent fiber-based packaging” by 2020.

It's the first time the restaurant has openly committed to a deadline to stop using polystyrene drink containers, which are eco-unfriendly and nearly impossible to recycle. The cups for its large cold drinks represent a mere 2 percent of its packaging, which still comes out to millions of dollars and cups annually.

The announcement is expected to ease tensions between McDonald's and its shareholder activists, which last year pushed the company to assess the environmental damage caused by using foam containers.

For years, McDonald's has been using more environmentally friendly paper wrappings and containers but it’s taken a lot of flak for its plastic foam cup.

It’s been nearly 27 years since McDonald’s made big news by getting rid of polystyrene “clamshells” for its hamburgers and other food items, replacing them with specially treated paper-based wrappings.

McDonald’s decision to completely stop using polystyrene might resonate with other fast-food providers like Dunkin’ Donuts and Chick-fil-A, which still use the controversial packaging.