McDonald’s posts update on its global zero waste drive

McDonald's has revealed progress on waste minimisation across its global operations including a specific reverse logistics initiative in the UK where it is working to send zero waste to landfill.

By 2020, the company aspires to increase the amount of in-restaurant recycling to 50%. Based on a 2011 restaurant waste audit of 11 restaurants in the McDonald’s USA Pacific Sierra region, it was estimated that approximately 75% of restaurant waste could be diverted through a mixed and organics recycling programme.

Working in partnership with Coca-Cola Company, this region created a waste diversion manual for staff, which could be rolled out to other McDonald’s restaurants across the US.

Following a successful pilot with restaurant franchisees in the region, 99% of Pacific Sierra Region restaurants now recycle cardboard (an increase of 14%), 33% recycle pre-consumer waste (an increase of 82%), 11% recycle post-consumer waste (an increase of 60%), 11% recycle pre-consumer organic waste (an increase of 73%), and 7% recycle post-consumer organic material (an 28% increase).

Meanwhile in the UK, McDonald’s is working toward a long-term objective to send zero waste to landfill. Using reverse logistics, used cooking oil, cardboard, milk bottles and uniforms are collected on delivery trucks and sent for recycling.

Cardboard and milk bottles are recycled, used cooking oil is converted into biodiesel (which is then used by the delivery fleet) and unwanted uniforms are sent for downcycling into furniture stuffing.

This initiative has reduced each restaurant’s waste to landfill by more than 20% and 4.5 million litres of cooking oil are recycled into biodiesel every year. In turn, the biodiesel supplies over 50% of the fuel used by the delivery fleet, saving the company more than £650,000 per year in fuel costs. The reverse logistics system saves 5,000 additional truck trips and reduces annual vehicle-related CO2 emissions by 43%.

At a European level, McDonald’s has developed a long-term zero waste vision that aims to send all waste from its European restaurants for recycling – last year McDonald’s Europe released a set of zero waste guidelines in the form of an e-brochure.

It features McDonald’s minimum recycling standards and measures to achieve results above those standards and will act as a step toward establishing roadmaps for each European market to address its own individual recycling challenges. So far, 24 European markets have established three-year roadmaps.

McDonald’s is also working with its distribution centres in the US to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2020. The company has identified a six-step process that will yield an estimated 90% diversion of waste from landfill at each distribution centre.

The process involves each centre analysing its waste arisings and then determining how and where to divert it depending on available infrastructure, local regulations and individual restaurant characteristics.

Each centre will be encouraged to introduce new facilities for ease of waste separation and collection, and engage management teams to create a culture of reusing and recycling among staff. The whole process will be measured via data collection and regular reporting.

Maxine Perella

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