Food Waste Produced By Mcdonalds Restaurants Environmental Sciences Essay

McDonald’s is one of the largest and most well known global fast food restaurants (DATAMONITOR: McDonald’s Corporation 2009, 4). Ray Kroc founded the company in the year 1955. The company has been operating for 55 years and has 32000 restaurants chain in more than 117 countries. More than 75% of McDonald’s worldwide outlets are operated by franchisees or affiliates (Our Company 2010). Over the many years, millions of people have patronage McDonald’s because of its trusted name with proven service. In returning that loyalty, McDonald’s have an obligation to give back to the community. McDonalds supports Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), animal welfare, food safety and environment (SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY 2010). This essay examine how McDonalds has performed in the relation to the environment particularly waste management practices.

The public of the current age is concerned about the amount of packaging and food waste produced by McDonald’s restaurants (Better Packaging with McDonald’s 2009). A survey conducted by Keep Britain Tidy stated that about 29% of the waste littered on the British streets comes from McDonald’s restaurants (Gray 2009). Therefore, one of the best solutions taken by McDonald’s is to manage the waste through waste management practices, which involves reduction, reuse, recycling and disposal (Better Packaging with McDonald’s, 2009).

As one of the largest fast food restaurants worldwide, McDonald’s has become an environment leader to protect the future generation. Therefore, McDonalds is determined to analyze each aspect of their business on their impact on the environment and according to the analysis seek effective ways to enhance the environment (McDonald’s Corporation – Environmental Defense Waste Reduction Task Force 1991). McDonald’s continues to seek other effective ways to reduce the environment impacts of waste produce in restaurant operation (McDonald’s Corporation 2009).

McDonald’s is hoping to achieve

McDonalds is hoping to survive and stay in a clean environment where the air, water and the earth are clean, as well as build an environmentally sound world for the future generation through the waste management practices (McDonald’s Corporation – Environmental Defense Waste Reduction Task Force 1991).

Past performance

In 1988, McDonald began new Styrofoam food container recycling program of at 20 New York City. However, the program came under instant criticism from environmentalists. Judith Enck, a member of the state Environment Planning Lobby said that it should absolutely ban the use of Styrofoam food container, as the Styrofoam did not broke down for more than 400 years, that the production of the light weight petroleum-based packaging is totally toxic and that burning it will create the dangerous emission (Goldfarb 1988). Besides, the recycling of the corrugated cardboard also had carried out at unspecified upstate McDonald’s location (Goldfarb 1988). In year 1990, McDonald used over 60 million dollars in purchasing recycle paper products for the items used in the restaurant (Grindel, Snover and Hopkins 1997). In year 2002, the China Daily (April 19, 2002) reported that the cooking oil of McDonalds had treated before released into Sewer system. Ultimately, McDonalds failed to do so as they sold its used oil for re-use to other restaurants. Furthermore, most of McDonald’s food wastes were end up in landfill. David Mottershead, head of policy said that most of the commercial and industrial food waste to landfills (Britton 2007).

Current performance

Nowadays, McDonalds has found many alternative ways to enhance the environment performance in term of the waste management practices. Because of consumers demand and heeding counsel of environmental groups about the unfriendly using polystyrene to the environment (Liddle 2010). As mention by Quinn (2009,17) that McDonalds has partnered with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to replace the polystyrene foam by the using paper based-wraps in order to reduce the waste volume in the waste management process. McDonald’s major markets, about 83% of the packaging containers are made of paper (Worldwide Corporate Responsibility Report 2006).

Second, McDonalds is one of the biggest buy and use of recycled paper in the world. In year 2008, McDonalds has purchased more than 583 million in recycle substance (McDonald’s Corporation 2009). For example, tray liners, napkins, bags sandwich containers which all are made up of recycle paper. The average use of recycled materials as a percentage of the total materials in the consumer packaging used in 2008 was 31% which increase from 30% in 2007 (McDonald’s Corporation 2009).

Thirdly, McDonalds has widely recycled the corrugated cardboard and used cooking oil in waste management practices in the McDonalds major nine markets (McDonald’s 2010). McDonalds in Unite State has recycled over 17 tons of corrugate cardboard per year (McDonald’s 2010). McDonalds has an aim of achieving to recycle 100% of their corrugated cardboard (McDonald’s 2008). McDonalds has enrolled in a new fueling program by recycling used cooking oil, which the oil has collected from 900 restaurants in UK (McDonald’s to Recycle Cooking Oil to Power its Vehicles 2007).

Fourthly, proper disposal waste programs are been carried out to manage the food waste once the McDonalds cannot reduce, reuse and recycle the waste (McDonald’s 2008). McDonald in UK recently has a trial tested out an alternative method of disposal, which by converting the food waste to energy (McDonald’s 2010). According to David Fairhurst, senior vice president for McDonald’s UK & Northern Europe state that converting waste to energy is encouraging that has already reduced the environmental impact in the area by 48% and significant step on achieving zero waste to landfill (Barker 2009).

Impact upon society and stakeholder

McDonald’s replaces the polystyrene foam to paper for packaging, which brings a lot of impact to society. Through the replacement of polystyrene to paper, McDonald’s makes up 90% reduction in the volume of packaging compared to foam. As mention by Quinn (2009, 17) state that the replacement has reduced the volume of packaging compared to foam. In essence, the program suggested seems to be working.

Besides, the more using recycles paper, which will reduce the amount waste that end up in the landfills (Lad 2010). Furthermore, corrugate cardboard represent around 30% of McDonald total restaurant waste and as result of recycling, divert the amount of waste from landfills (McDonald’s 2008). In fact, the more practices the recycling the paper, the more preserve the environment. As a result, less of the trees will cut and less pollution occur. (Kinsella 2000).

By the way, McDonalds has recycled used cooking oil for biodiesel, as the used cooking oil is 10% of the total restaurant waste (McDonald’s 2008). This program is to recycle the cooking oil into fuel for delivery trucks. The delivery trucks run on the green fuel, which has been successfully save 1675 tonnes of carbon annually (McDonald’s to Run UK Fleet on Cooking Oil 2007, 12). For instance, approximately 80% of the used oil in Europe has transformed into biodiesel (McDonald’s 2010).

In addition, the trial of converting the waste to energy has been successfully reduction 54% percent of carbon emission as audited by the Carbon Trust (Brass 2009). The amount of waste save from landfill could be 65 tones if the restaurants continue implement this disposal. For the energy generate from the waste provide enough heat and electricity to the building (McDonald’s 2010). For instance, in UK the energy generate from the food waste, which able to power the 22 million light bulbs to community (Brass 2009). Despite the program started recently, McDonald’s has successful manage a reduction of carbon emission. In essence, the program suggested seems to be working.

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are advantages and disadvantages of McDonald’s practices in the waste management. The major advantage through the waste management practices is reduced the greenhouse gas emission. According to European Environment Agency (EEA) said that improves of the waste management contribute to the low greenhouse gas emission. Methane especially one of the greenhouse gases which mostly generate by the landfills operation and bring harmful effects to the environment and human health. Therefore, the key factor success of lower down the gases emission is driven by the greater recycle wastes, increased amount of waste recovery and incineration combined with energy production (European Environment Agency, 2008). Another advantage of the waste management practices is generated a livable environment to society (Waste Disposal Methods Advantages and Disadvantages n.d.). Through the waste management practices, McDonalds has send less waste to landfill and ultimately less waste occupy the landfill and less waste not contributed the greenhouse gases (Lad 2010).

However, there are some disadvantages of the waste management practices. The major disadvantage is contaminated the environment (Waste Disposal Methods Advantages and Disadvantages n.d.). The utilization of papers as packaging especially is not justifying, as it is unfriendly to the environment in the waste management practice. It is because there will be an increase in the environment impact in production of paper packaging item.

An analysis conducted by the Franklin Associates, an independent environmental research firm that the production between polystyrene foam and paper toward the environment impact. The result show that the manufacturing of paper containers especially make up 46 percent more air pollution, 42 percent more water pollution and 75 percent more industrial waste than that of plastic. The production of paper requires 30 percent more energy to produce than foam (Eckhardt 1998). In essence, the program of utilization of paper for packaging suggested not been successful working in reduce the environment impacts. Besides, the disadvantage of the waste management practices is the affect of people health. The process of convert the waste to energy need go through the incineration, which may emit the harmful gases into the environment that hazardous to residents’ health, as the emission smoke is invisible and smelly. Undoubtedly, it brings the negative impact to society (Krishna 2006).


As conclusion, the fast food chain like McDonalds should primarily concern reduction of the waste. The social performance of McDonalds in relation to the environment has tremendously contributed in the term of waste management practices. However, McDonald’s waste management practices are not effective unless McDonalds find out other alternative ways in manage the waste, which are bring environmental friendly to society. Even though the elimination of waste from the fast food restaurants is impossible, McDonalds should also reduce the waste produce from the restaurant in order to prevent the waste from being engulfed the earth. If the large fast food company like McDonalds does not control the waste produce from the restaurant, other smaller company will follow the McDonalds same footstep. Ultimately, it will bring the greater harm to the environment and society.

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