McDonald’s ditches plastic McFlurry and drinks lids across Europe

McDonald's has announced a range of new trials and pilots to remove single-use plastics and improve recyclability, including the removal of plastic McFlurry lids across Europe, the introduction of renewable fibre lids in France and a toy take-back scheme in the UK.

McDonald’s ditches plastic McFlurry and drinks lids across Europe

The lidless McFlurrys feature foldable paper-based flaps on the existing packaging which create a new lid

McDonald’s has today (14 November) launched the “Better M” platform to improve the recyclability of its packaging. As part of the programme, the company has launched several innovations to cut down on the plastics it uses.

More than 1,200 tonnes of plastic per year will be saved by changing McFlurry packaging so that a separate plastic lid isn’t needed. The change will be implemented across Europe by the end of 2020 following phase-out plans in the UK. Wooden and paper-based spoons are also being tested and could be rolled out in the same timeframe.

The lidless McFlurrys feature foldable paper-based flaps on the existing packaging which create a new lid.

Additionally, around 1,200 tonnes of plastic will be saved annually by introducing a renewable fibre lid for cold drinks in France, made from 100% certified sustainable sources and recyclable materials.

McDonald’s vice president of global sustainability Keith Kenny said: “The trials we are conducting across Europe are vital in helping us get first-hand feedback from customers on solutions that help them to be conscious consumers, without compromising on quality and the McDonald’s experience they love.

“Better M is a powerful platform to allow us to work with our customers and choose the right solutions to scale up across Europe.”

McDonald’s started phasing out plastic straws from UK locations in May 2018. However, following feedback that the paper replacements also couldn’t be recycled, the company has issued a new variant of paper straw that is stronger while still consisting of fully recyclable materials. Kenny confirmed to edie that the current issue of a lack of recyclability was largely to do with infrastructure and collection issues. Read the full interview with Kenny here.

Other trials being launched this week include a return scheme for Happy Meal toys at select UK restaurants to ensure they are recycled. During the Hugh’s War on Waste TV series, a petition was made which has had more than 563,000 signatures at the time of writing, calling for McDonald’s to rethink its approach to Happy Meal toys.

European scope

In the Netherlands, restaurants now offer recycled paper masks as part of the Happy Meal instead of balloons and this has been expanded to Belgium following positive customer feedback.

McDonald’s Germany is piloting a programme called ReCup, a finalist from an innovation incubator led by McDonald’s and Starbucks, where customers can use reusable coffee cups. In Ukraine, customers can purchase Sundaes in edible packaging made of waffle.

Plastics account for just 12% of McDonald’s packaging in Europe and 60% of its restaurants in its eight largest European markets provide recycling for consumers – in the UK this reaches 90%. McDonald’s has a target in place to recycle consumer packaging in 100% of its restaurants globally by 2025.

Also in the UK, McDonald’s UK & Ireland will replace existing plastic salad bowls, cups and lids used across its entire range of salad-based mains and sides with recyclable cardboard containers. The new packaging will be made from carton board – a material that contains 50% recycled and 50% virgin content, all of which is from sources certified as renewable.

McDonald’s UK & Ireland estimates the new salad packaging will mitigate the use of 102 metric tonnes of plastic annually. The total impact of its new packaging announced today, therefore, will be a reduction of 485 million metric tonnes of plastic.

The changes come as McDonald’s UK is striving to source all packaging from renewable or recycled sources by 2025. It has already removed virgin plastic straws from all stores, replacing them with paper alternatives, and introduced multi-compartment bins to help encourage customers to recycle correctly. McDonald’s is approximately 60% of the way towards achieving this goal globally.

Matt Mace

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