McDonald's to Use Completely Renewable, Recycled Packaging by 2025

The fast-food giant McDonald's said its foam packaging would disappear at the end of this year.
Shelby Rogers

The iconic McDonald's hamburger wrapper is about to get an eco-friendly upgrade. The global fast-food giant recently announced that by 2025 all of its guest packaging will come from renewable, recycled, or certified sources. 

All of those yellow wrappers, styrofoam cups, plastic ice cream containers and signature fry box will be significantly better for the environment in less than a decade, McDonald's said in a statement. The company also said it would aim for 100 percent of recycling guest packaging by 2025 as well as get rid of its foam packaging by the end of this year. 

"Our ambition is to make changes our customers want and to use less packaging, sourced responsibly and designed to be taken care of after use."

"Our customers have told us that packaging waste is the top environmental issue they would like us to address," said McDonald's executive Francesca DeBiase. "Our ambition is to make changes our customers want and to use less packaging, sourced responsibly and designed to be taken care of after use."

The company noted that it hopes to have a bigger influence than expected. 

"With our size and reach we have a tremendous opportunity to make a difference for our planet, and this decision is a significant step in our journey to be a better McDonald’s and positively impact the communities we serve," said a company spokesperson.

A lot of environmental groups hope that McDonald's could kickstart a chain of events that inspire other fast food companies to reduce their waste while looking for alternatives to traditional packaging. 

“Today’s announcement demonstrates McDonald’s strong leadership in developing packaging and recycling solutions at a scale that can extend the life of our natural resources and push its industry toward more sustainable practices,” said Sheila Bonini, senior vice president, private sector engagement of the World Wildlife Fund, in an interview with USA Today

It also holds other fast food companies accountable for their waste. If McDonald's can be transparent about its waste production and recycling, expect other companies to do the same. 

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"This sends an important message to other quick service food companies who may still be using foam," said Conrad MacKerron, a senior VP of the environmental nonprofit As You Sow. "We also hope McDonald's will next turn its attention to other single use items like plastic straws and cup lids that pose hazards to marine animals and add to the tsunami of plastic waste afflicting world oceans."

And in terms of a bottom line? Several analysts don't anticipate the switch to affect McDonald's profits. If anything, said analyst Brian Yarbrough, it'll drive more people to reconsider the controversial fast food restaurant. 

"It's in the forefront of people's minds right now — recycling, green. Obviously, it's a positive development for them," the equity analyst with Edward Jones. "It won't translate into much in same-store sales or profits."

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