McDonald’s Replaces PlayPlaces With Urban Gardens, Composting Sites

Just kidding! Happy April Fools 2012 :-)

Mcdonalds, sustainability, composting, food deserts, urban gardening, compost, happy meal toys, fast food
This McDonalds in Panorama City, CA, will soon replace its PlaySpace with a garden.

McDonald’s, the Big Mac of fast food companies, has ramped up its efforts to improve its overall sustainability. Starting this week, over 20 of its outdoor PlayPlaces will be replaced with urban gardens and composting facilities. The move comes after pressure from moms who found the bacterial content of the PlayPlaces extremely disturbing. In addition to stopping the spread of infectious diseases spread by saliva-ladened plastic balls, the new initiative should shield the company from criticism over the waste its products generate and backtracking and re-backtracking over a decision to source chicken from Brazil during the London Olympics.

The decision is also a shot in the arm for the urban gardening movement, necessary in light of the fact that many American food deserts lack access to fresh food but plenty of fast food joints. McDonald’s employees will benefit from a new program that will train them on both gardening and composting techniques.

According to Bob Langert, McDonald’s vice president of sustainability, “If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that we can’t achieve our sustainability goals alone. In no area is this more important than in composting. Even though the scientific evidence suggests that it takes a few decades for a Chicken McNugget to decompose, there is no reason that a leftover McNugget should end up in a landfill instead of a compost bin.”

Executive vice president of worldwide supply chain, development and franchising Jose Armario was equally effusive is his praise for this program:

“Leadership throughout our supply chain is increasingly critical as we work to integrate sustainable actions across all areas of our business to help make the world a better place for everyone. We sincerely appreciate all of our employees’ efforts to see this plan, two years in the making, succeed.”

When rolled out across its global operations, the composting and garden plan will reduce McDonald’s carbon footprint, lessen the company’s energy consumption and save money from hauling fresh produce from hundreds of miles away. Kevin Newell, the company’s chief brand officer, said plans were underway for an eventual release of the McForage, a sandwich made from organic beef with which customers can enter the gardens and snip their own garnishes.

The composting should also assist McDonald’s with its waste diversion efforts as more cash-strapped municipalities struggle with landfill space. In addition to serving as a repository for the company’s premium roast coffee grounds, residents living in the vicinity of a McDonald’s pilot compost site will have the opportunity to leave their food waste in bins placed outside of these locations.

Not everyone is happy that their local PlaySpace will be ripped out and replaced with an outdoor compost bin. Constance Lee Kevetching of Sugarland, Texas, lamented the impending loss of her local PlayPlace, the familiar crawl tube design with ball pits and slides that has long been a fixture in her neighborhood. “It’s absurd,” the mother of two retorted. “Next they are going to bring farmers to the location to lecture us about something lame, like, where their potatoes are from.” Other customers said the change was odd considering how much McDonald’s had invested in its stores’ redesign.

In addition, the company announced that its Happy Meal toys will start to be manufactured out of bamboo instead of plastic before the end of the third quarter this year. Although they were designed to be composted, the toys will still face a surcharge in cities like San Francisco that have banned the giveaway of toys in fast food meals.

Leon Kaye is a journalist, sustainability consultant and the editor of He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business and Inhabitat. You can follow him on Twitter.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

4 responses

  1. Kudos to McDonalds for moving sustainability forward. Hoping that they will reach out to the US Compsoting Council for gudance on this bold move.

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