McDonald’s Must Enact Better Sustainable Packaging Policies for Plastics

McDonald’s is the world’s largest fast-food chain by revenue, with over 34,000 restaurants operating in 118 countries and territories across the world; in the U.K. alone, McDonald’s operates 1,200 restaurants serving more than 3.8 million customers each day.
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McDonald’s itself states that these are “some serious numbers,” but another serious number connected to McDonald’s operations is the 153,000 metric tons of plastic packaging the company used in its beverage cups, lids, and utensils alone, or the estimated 2 million tons of packaging waste the company produces each year – which is about three tons of waste every minute. Considering that only 9% of all plastics ever made have been recycled, these numbers significantly contribute to the global plastic pollution crisis and must be corrected.

Our Goal

Our goal is to support As You Sow’s proposal to McDonald’s by launching a campaign that allows individuals to invest in a more sustainable future and hold McDonald’s accountable for its continued usage of substantial amounts of plastic packaging while plastic pollution grows unabated by voting at the company’s next shareholder meeting. The proposal requests that the McDonald’s Board of Directors issue a report: (1) assessing the reputational, financial, and operational risks associated with continuing to use substantial amounts of plastic packaging while plastic pollution grows unabated; (2) evaluating the benefits of dramatically reducing the amount of plastics used in packaging; and (3) describing how McDonald’s can further reduce single-use packaging, including any planned reduction strategies or goals, materials redesign, transition to reusables, substitution, or reductions in use of virgin plastic. A “win” would result in McDonald’s being required to issue that report describing how the company will reduce its plastics use in alignment with the reductions findings of the Pew Report, or other authoritative sources, to feasibly reduce ocean pollution.

Why It’s Important

The growing plastic pollution crisis poses increasing risks to the global population, investors of the company, and McDonald’s itself. Corporations could face an annual financial risk of approximately $100 billion should governments require them to cover the waste management costs of the packaging they produce, a policy that is increasingly being enacted around the globe. McDonald’s itself recognizes that its biggest opportunity area for improvement is in fixing its packaging, and recycling alone will not fix the plastic pollution crisis. The company noted that, “we know that when packaging and plastic waste aren’t recovered or recycled correctly, it can have a negative impact on our planet, creating litter and pollution.”

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