What happened when McDonald’s went plastic-free?

McDonald’s has published some initial findings from its “better store” in Germany, which eliminated traditional plastics.

The fast food chain, which has an eye on compliance with the EU’s single use plastics directive, said it went “all in” for the trial to find out what works and what doesn’t.

Edible waffle cups replaced condiment sachets and containers; paper straws replaced plastic straws; wooden cutlery replaced plastic cutlery; sandwiches were wrapped in packaging made from grass, not paper; and Chicken McNuggets were served in paper bags, rather than cardboard boxes.

But how did customers react?

Well, the grass wrappers were “a hit” and many people liked the edible waffle cups – though the shape needs to be tweaked to allow McNuggets to be dipped. Lids on drinks could easily be eliminated.

Wooden cutlery isn’t many peoples’ favourite option, with one in two guests disliking the “woody” taste of the spoon.

There is also work to be done on straws: the paper ones were seen as “eco-friendly” but weren’t easy to use or very durable. McDonald’s has also had issues with its switch to paper straws in the UK.

“Normally, McDonald’s goes out with perfect solutions. This time we said, ‘We don’t have perfect solutions yet… please help us’,” explained Diana Wicht, Sustainability Department Head for McDonald’s Germany.

All McDonald’s restaurants in Germany serve all of their in-house hot drinks in porcelain or glass mugs, rather than paper cups with plastic lids. Thirty outlets are also involved in a deposit system for reusable carry out cups.

The ways in which foodservice businesses are tackling single use packaging will be discussed at a Footprint event on Monday October 14th.

There will also be the launch of the Future of foodservice packaging report. For more details see here.

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