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Practical check: McDonalds model restaurant for less garbage & plastic

Sustainable Packaging
Practical check: McDonalds model restaurant for less garbage & plastic

Photo: McDonald’s Germany

From 17 to 26 June 2019, McDonalds turned its branch in the Mall of Berlin into a model restaurant under the motto “Less garbage & plastic”. The B+P Creality team was on site to take a close look at the measures and alternative packaging. The result is mixed.

McDonald’s burger in grass paper and ketchup in waffles: McDonald’s presented the current status of his work on a “packaging concept with more sustainable solutions” at the Mall of Berlin. The primary goal of the concept, which underwent a practical test in the “Model Restaurant”, was to reduce waste and plastic.

As soon as they entered the branch, the guests were greeted with information boards that greeted them for a “live experiment”. Under the motto “Many ways lead to the goal”, digital displays named various measures of the project, such as the use of reusable packaging.

At the order terminals, green dots marked those products that could be ordered “alternatively packaged”. The Creality team took its duties seriously and – bravely accepting the calories – ordered a wider range.


Check out the packaging alternatives

Reusable cups for drinks. They replaced the disposable versions and were made of plastic. For a concrete sustainability balance to be drawn up, the costs such as the installation of dishwashers and water and energy consumption for cleaning would have to be compared with the previous disposable variants.
Pro: Reusable
Kontra: Not required for to-go use or introduction of a deposit system
Paper drinking straws. They replaced the plastic variants (which will soon be banned throughout Europe).
Pro: Paper replaces plastic.
Kontra: The straw dissolves too quickly when shakes are eaten. The paper stalk is still a long way from the perceived hygienic and tasteless impression of the plastic stalk.
PE-laminated paper trays were used for the salads and replaced the previous plastic boxes.
Pro: Replacement of plastic.
Kontra: The trays are difficult to recycle. The previously used plastic solutions made of monomaterial are better recyclable.
Paper bags. They were used for Chicken McNuggets and placed on the tray. The bags were obviously made of virgin fibre and replaced the cardboard boxes previously used.
Pro: The use of materials is lower.
Contra: Due to the experimental status of the packaging, the bags were not finally designed and branded. For the final, printed version, the question will arise as to which printing inks will be used. The problem of migration of unwanted substances from the packaging into the food should not be underestimated, especially with “fatty foods”.
Waffle cups. They were used for ketchup and dips as well as soft ice cream. The edible packaging replaced plastic cups.
Pro: Basically, the waffle cups cut a good figure. They replace previously used plastic solutions.
Contra: However, the hygiene aspect could become problematic. At least in our group, not everyone wanted to eat a waffle cup that had previously passed through a few hands and ended up on the fast-food restaurant table. Normally, the cups should remain and be disposed of as residual waste. But what is the overall balance if you take grain production and production into account? Are foods produced to be disposed of normally the right message?
Grass paper was used to package the burgers. We liked this solution best.
Pro: The grass paper fulfils its function, is haptically appealing and also visually a good solution.
Kontra: The grass content is “only” 30 percent. Even before that, the company had already opted for pure paper or cardboard solutions.
Wooden cutlery replaced plastic cutlery.
Pro: No use of plastic.
Contra: Although a renewable raw material is used, the solution is not recyclable and must be disposed of as residual waste. However, we were not convinced by the taste of the wood cutlery. The feeling in the mouth also needs getting used to.


The conclusion of the test lunch

The result of our test lunch is mixed.

On the positive side, one big player is trying to make bold progress. McDonalds got some insights and is looking for alternatives.

Nevertheless, in the end only insignificantly less used packaging remains on the tray. Only the claim to use less plastic is visibly implemented. This should be a success, at least from a marketing point of view. Whether it makes sense from an ecological point of view would have to be examined on a case-by-case basis. Obviously – and not surprisingly – McDonald’s current focus is on serving consumers’ perception of sustainability. The gap to truly sustainable and recyclable solutions has therefore not necessarily narrowed.


Also not really solved seems to us the question whether McDonalds succeeds with his concept to make both the stationary diner and the to-go consumer happy. For a meal on the spot, the packaging continues to be uninviting. And in the end you’re still sitting in front of a “tray full of garbage”. On the other hand, the non-sealable wafer cups for ketchup and dips, for example, might not be an ideal to-go solution.

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