McDonald's Pivots To Eco-Friendly Packaging

Fast-food behemoth McDonald's is going back to the basics with its packaging: Reduce, reuse, recycle.

On Jan. 16, the chain announced its ambitious environmental plan to push the industry to more sustainable practices. The environmental checklist includes lofty efforts, one of which will take up to seven years to complete.

On the checklist is McDonald's plan for eco-friendly packaging. Bags, cups and wrappers will be 100 percent renewable, recyclable or derived from sustainable sources, according to the company's announcement. The switch appears to be the chain's latest strategy to be in good graces with the younger "green generation," who consider sustainability a shopping priority.

McDonald's also announced on Jan. 10 that it plans to stop using plastic foam cups by the end of this year, opting for recycled, certified sources for their fiber-based packaging.

Polystyrene containers, usually made into disposable drinking cups, are nearly impossible to recycle and represent just 2 percent of the company's packaging, says the Tribune. Pushed by shareholders insisting on evaluations of environmental damage caused by foam containers, the golden arches finally decided to forego foam container usage for more environmentally friendly paper wrappings.

McDonald's also announced that by 2025, we can expect to see recycling bins at every location. Currently, just half of McDonald's packaging is recycled, Grub Street reported, and just 10 percent of its stores have onsite recycling bins.

Francesca Debiase, McDonald's chief supply chain and sustainability officer, said in a statement that customers consider packaging waste as their No. 1 environmental issue they would like the fast-food company to address.

These "openly committed", deadline-driven plans are unprecedented for the chain, according to Chicago Tribune, which could very well provoke a shift in fast-food packaging across the globe.

Other fast-food chains, including Dunkin' Donuts, have made promises to switch to eco-friendly packaging but still use styrofoam cups. A 2016 Business Insider report showed that the coffee chain said it would consider foam to be a "prominent sustainability issue," but a follow-up report two years later showed stalled efforts. A majority of Dunkin' Donuts restaurants still serve coffee in styrofoam cups.

Hopefully, this announcement will be met with action and customers will get to see McDonald's full transition to environmentally responsible practices by the company's deadline.