McDonald’s ditches plastic cutlery in UK and Ireland as packaging overhaul continues

Image: McDonald's UK&I

The fast food giant trialled alternative, plastic-free cutlery options in Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland in the first half of 2022. It has today (7 November) confirmed that these will be made a permanent fixture in these markets and will also be rolled out across restaurants in England and Wales.

McDonald’s estimates that the change will mitigate the use of more than 850 metric tonnes of single-use plastics each year in the UK and Ireland. Restaurants will be asked to use their existing supplies of plastic cutlery but will not order any more. As such, the new cutlery will be phased in gradually.

Back in late 2019, McDonald’s UK and Ireland pledged to remove plastic from as much of its packaging portfolio as possible by 2024 and to ensure that all consumer-facing packaging is made from renewable, recycled, or certified sources by this point. All packaging should, by this deadline, also be fully recyclable and compostable.

Since then, it has implemented changes such as switching plastic straws for paper straws, doing away with plastic McFlurry lids in favour of an entirely paper based container with a foldable top, and replacing plastic Happy Meal toys. Children are now offered books, paper-based toys or soft toys.

McDonald’s UK and Ireland’s head of sustainable and ethical sourcing Nina Prichard said: “As a business, we’re committed to taking action on packaging and waste and increasing our use of sustainable materials. We’re pleased to announce another step forward in eliminating single-use plastics and it’s great to be switching our famous McFlurry spoons to this new paper-based material.”

Despite all of these positive changes, McDonald’s was accused this year by Surfers Against Sewage of producing some of the UK’s most commonly-littered packaging. Almost 40% of the items collected in the NGO’s annual cleanup efforts were branded as McDonald’s, PepsiCo or Coca-Cola

Commenting on the Surfers Against Sewage report at the time, McDonald’s stated: Over 90% of the packaging we use comes from recycled or renewable sources, and can be recycled. We remain committed to finding innovative ways to tackle the issue of packaging waste and are trialling a number of initiatives to help reduce littering.”

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