In April 2008, McDonald's announced that 11 of its Sheffield restaurants have been using a biomass trial that had cut its waste and carbon footprint by half in the area. In this trial, waste from the restaurants were collected by Veolia Environmental Services and used to produce energy at a power plant. McDonald's plans to expand this project, however the lack of biomass power plants in the U.S. will prevent this plan from becoming a national standard anytime soon. In addition, in Europe, Mcdonald's has been recycling vegetable grease by converting it to fuel for their diesel trucks.
Furthermore, McDonald's has been using a corn-based bioplastic to produce containers for some of their products. Although industries who use this product claim a carbon savings of 30% to 80%, a Guardian study shows otherwise. The results show that this type of plastic does not break down in landfills as efficiently as other conventional plastics. The extra energy it takes to recycle this plastic results in a higher output of greenhouse gases. Also, the plastics can contaminate waste streams causing other recycled plastics to become unsaleable.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized McDonald's to demonstrate a continuous effort to solid waste reduction by inspecting its packaging for efficient material for and by promoting the use of recycled-content materials. McDonald's report that they are committed towards environmental leadership by effectively managing electric energy, by conserving natural resources through recycling and reusing materials, and by addressing water management issues within the restaurant.
When McDonald’s received criticism for its environmental policies in the 1970s, it began to make substantial progress towards source reductions efforts. For instance, an “average meal” in the 1970s—a Big Mac, fries, and a drink—required 46 grams of packaging; today, it requires only 25 grams, allowing a 46 percent reduction. In addition, McDonald’s eliminated the need for intermediate containers for Coke by having a delivery system that pumps syrup directly from the delivery truck into storage containers, saving two million pounds of packaging annually. Overall, weight reductions in packaging and products, as well as the increased usage of bulk packaging ultimately decreased packaging by 24 million pounds annually.
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