McDonald’s says EU’s proposal for reusable plastic packaging is setting back its sustainability efforts and promoting theft, as it has effectively removed plastic from establishments and its reusable cup pilot in Germany saw only 40% of cups returned

Sample article from our Foodservice Industry

September 29, 2023 (press release) –

The world’s largest fast food company feels reusable plastic is setting back its sustainable efforts and promoting theft.

Fast-food companies, led by McDonald’s, are balking at EU reuse requirements, claiming it is actually setting their sustainability efforts back, according to Bloomberg News.

McDonald’s has voiced its reservations about the EU’s proposal, asserting that it represents a notable departure from their long-standing efforts to reduce the environmental impact of plastic in their restaurants.

Currently, nearly all — 94% — of the company’s packaging in Europe is fiber-based, mostly from wood fibers. Plastic is still used in liners for hot and cold cups, but McDonald’s is developing a plastic-free cup, too.

In a recent interview, Jon Banner, McDonald’s global chief impact officer, stated that they had effectively removed plastic from their establishments. If they were to fully comply with EU mandates, he acknowledged that the EU’s emphasis on reusability would compel them to reintroduce plastic into their restaurants, with the overarching aim of ensuring repeated and sustainable reuse.

“We’ve basically eliminated plastic from our restaurants,” Banner, said. “Now, as a result of reuse, we’re going to have to end up reintroducing plastic to our restaurants with the goal of having it be reused and reused and reused.”

McDonald’s research suggests cups need to be reused 50 to 100 times to make them preferable environmentally to single-use products. “We’re not getting anywhere near that in the real-life experience,” Banner said.

The world’s largest fast food chain has experimented with offering reusable cups in several European countries, according to Bloomberg, and says that many of them simply disappear. That’s the case in Germany, where customers who select reusable materials pay a €2 ($2.10) deposit, but only 40% of cups return to restaurants.

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Jason Irving
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