McDonald's joins TerraCycle's Loop programme to trial reusable cups

The world's largest restaurant company McDonald's has launched a new global partnership to utilise the Loop collection model from TerraCycle that will see reusable and returnable cups trialled to cut back on single-use plastics.

The initiative, which will be trialled next year, will aim to reduce the number of beverages served in single-use containers.

The initiative, which will be trialled next year, will aim to reduce the number of beverages served in single-use containers.

McDonald’s Corporation has announced a global partnership with TerraCycle to use the Loop platform. The zero-waste platform enables shoppers to purchase refillable versions of food and drink, health and beauty and cleaning products online. Brands signed up in the UK include Heinz, Coca Cola, Sky, Tesco, Unilever, Danone and Nivea.

Through the Loop service platform, select McDonald’s restaurants in the UK will allow customers to purchase drinks in reusable cups for a small deposit. That deposit is then redeemed if the customer returns the cup to a participating McDonald’s UK restaurant so that it can be washed and sanitised to be reused again.

The initiative, which will be trialled next year, will aim to reduce the number of beverages served in single-use containers.

“We’re on a journey to rethink how we package products to give customers options that reduce waste, maintain the highest safety standards, and enhance the McDonald’s experience they expect and enjoy. That’s an innovation challenge, and it’s one we think the Loop model has the potential to help us solve,” McDonald’s vice president of global sustainability Jenny McColloch said.

“Our commitment to communities is one of our core values as a company, and this pilot will generate important local insights and lessons to share along the way. We’re excited to assess how new reusable packaging models could work within our system as we accelerate circular packaging solutions with our partners around the globe.” 

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.

Late last year, McDonald's launched a range of 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.

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.

More recently, McDonald's UK and Ireland confirmed it would remove plastic toys from its Happy Meals in 2021, after customers campaigned for plastic-free alternatives.

As part of the reusable cups trials, the Loop system will meet McDonald’s cleanliness and safety standards. Loop’s cleaning system has been developed in partnership with Ecolab and ensures that each item is santised.

"This groundbreaking partnership with McDonald's enables Loop to greatly expand its reach by bringing convenient reusable packaging options to the foodservice industry," TerraCycle and Loop chief executive Tom Szaky said. “The partnership paves the way for reusables to become an accessible option for consumers as they enjoy their meal on the go." 

edie has published an ‘in numbers’ feature charting public attitudes to plastics in the context of Covid-19, and a special episode of the Sustainable Business Covered Podcast for Plastic-Free July.  

Matt Mace



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