McDonalds Blog on Green Packaging

mcdclamshell.jpgMcDonalds, like Wal Mart is often scapegoated into a corner as an uncaring behemoth. I’m not going to debate that because what’s more important is the scale of change that such a large company can produce. Anyway, McDonalds has an interesting and quite transparent “corporate social responsibility” blog which is actually worth reading and participating on. Recently they ran a little piece on packaging which lays out McDonald’s environmental policies in that regard. They’ve come a long way from the days of styrofoam and point out the following recent accomplishments:

  • Napkins are smaller and contain recycled content.
  • Happy Meal boxes are made partly from recycled newspapers.
  • Our trayliners have recycled newspaper content too.
  • We’ve trimmed the amount of material used in our French fry and McNugget cartons.
  • Our straws use less material.

So is McDonald’s doing enough? When you’re as big as they are, you’re bound to be held to a higher standard and I’d like to see a whole lot more post-consumer material. In fact I’d like to see the word “recycled” eliminated unless it specifically refers to post-consumer content. There are not a great many specifics on the current blog post, such as just “how much” recycled content there is in the packaging either.
One of the great ironies about this is the fact that most people who care about McDonald’s packaging are unlikely to eat there anyway. Perhaps I’m making a snooty demographic judgement here, but McDonald’s has to take into consideration that the extra costs involved with improved packaging may not be appreciated by much of their regular clientele who don’t know enough to notice. Rather, the payoff comes in terms of less hassle from environmentalists and, hopefully, some personal satisfactoin.
How would you advise them?

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

23 responses

  1. For those that don’t already know, McDonalds packaging is supplied by Perseco.
    Perseco are the company that did the 1999 study on McDonalds Styrofoam, and provided the evidence to make McDonalds change to a cardboard microflute
    Perseco are currently evaluating several packaging products/technologies from a UK company Stanelco PLC, including Wrap 100, a burger wrap that is better than the current one :-
    In December 2005 we entered into a landmark cooperation with Perseco for the two companies to participate in a joint effort to
    explore Stanelco’s technologies, with a view toward developing materials and
    products that are focused on fulfilling Perseco’s growing requirements for
    environmentally friendly, cost effective, innovative packaging solutions.
    Perseco, a subsidiary of HAVI Global Solutions
    (, is an international leader in Packaging and Supply Chain Services to the food service and beverage industries. Amongst their clients are some of the world’s leading
    fast food brands in the US.
    “Wrap 100, a biodegradable replacement for wax coated paper, will help to improve packaging quality in the food industry and provides benefits to the environment. This material’s properties do not allow oil or moisture to pass through it, whilst permitting moisture vapour to permeate out. It can be used for fast foods like burgers as it stops condensation occurring which can adversely affect food quality. It competes on a cost neutral basis with the currently used products and is also significantly lighter. This presents potential cost savings on the product with reduced transport costs and landfill taxes”
    I am a shareholder of Stanelco PLC, my website holds a lot more info on this and other Stanelco environmentally friendly products. I have just added a bit on my discussion board, regarding Perseco and GreenBlue with regard to changing Transfer Packaging by making it recyclable.

  2. I am the McDonald’s CSR Blogger who wrote the piece on packaging. You mentioned how much recycled content we use…in the U.S. we use about 32% recycled contentpost consumer, 24% post consumer. In terms of demographics, you would be surprised. We serve all people across the spectrum, with families of all kinds topping the list. Whenever we do focus groups on packaging, the need to be environmentally responsible always comes through, even with “non-environmental” groups. We have found that environmental responsibility is a given, like having clean bathrooms. Now the BIG question is do customers change their purchasing decisions based on environmental packaging? We have not found that to be the case, but that doesn’t keep us from looking at innovative packaging changes. Our overall challenge is balancing ALL the needs of our customers, who want functionality, quality, value and green. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  3. It’s good to see them using less materials, but I don’t think they are doing enough. They are the world’s biggest fast food chain and they need to set an example, even if it means that dividends are a little lower. I agree with you about the vagueness of their original post and about recycled and post-consumer materials.
    I found your blog by doing a search for McDonald’s and “alternative energy”. I found one report about some fuel cells installed at a Long Island location a few years ago, but not much else. If you know of any stories that provide information about this, please post them over at

  4. The latest on McDonalds using Wrap 100 from Stanelco, is that a deal is expected soon, so you will hopefully see McDonalds using a biodegradable and compostable wrap for burgers, that also improves food quality by keeping in water and oil, and allowing out water vapour, thus you don’t get a soggy burger after 5 minutes walking home, and you can put the wrap in your compost bin afterwards. See my previous post for the full benefits of Wrap 100.
    In The Times (Big UK PRess) on 10 Nov 2006 ….
    Stanelco, the packaging maker, perked up 0.16p to 1.4p on talk of an imminent order from McDonald’s.,,748-2446614.html

  5. Hey I need help for a bonus question in my polymer chemistry class, there is a recycling logo on a mcdonald’s toy package that has an acronym called PEbd. I am shooting a guess out there for biodegradable Polyethylene. Let me know if anyone has any ideas, thanks.

  6. hi…i need help in a qn on environmental information on packaging – a cross cultural examination. My qn is to look at the diff environmental info across countries and talk of what it suggests about globalisation of consumer interests. Does anyone have any suggestions??…im using McDonalds as the case study!

  7. one time, at band camp, they made me eat so much styrofoam i almost died. that night, when they all went to sleep, i killed them. revenge is a bitch. oh and mcdonalds egg mcmuffins are good with no sausage egg or cheese on them. try it

  8. i have an idea , a simple method by which McDonalds can stop giving our napkins to customer who eat in the resturant. by simply providing a unit where people can wash there hands.
    and does mcdonalds recyle the rubbish it collects in their resturants ? if yes how? and what does it recyle ?

  9. We are living in a world becoming more aware of environmental concerns like pollution and global warming, it is more important than ever for modern manufacturers to convert their business practices in order to comply with increasingly stringent environmental regulations. And in this quest to further protect the environment, Mcdonalds should virtually defines what it means to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

  10. A lot of McDonalds paper packaging is coming from Southern forests–sourced from the logging giant International Paper. Right now McDonald’s has the opportunity to become a true leader in the realm of fast food paper packaging. With smart choices and simple solutions, you can say “I’m lovin’… not loggin’… Southern forests!” I know that McDonald’s is in the final stages of developing its latest corporate social responsibility report and should include policies to protect endangered Southern forests and embrace FSC certified fiber for its packaging.

    McDonald’s has shown leadership in the past by both reducing excessive packaging and continually increasing the use of post-consumer recycled fiber for its paper packaging.
    McDonald’s claims green leadership in its sector and must embrace all facets of going green including its packaging. As the largest fast food chain in the world, this company can and must do the right thing.

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  14. An unfortunate perception of the print and packaging world is that it “eats trees”! In fact, of the world consumption of wood only 12% is actually used for the manufacture of paper and board, and of this, just one tenth is used for cartons. Over half the cartons used in Europe are manufactured using recovered fibres from waste paper. For more interesting facts and myths about food packaging I can recommend this article by Bensongroup, a leading UK food packaging company with a strong environmental focus:

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