Responsibility for the environment is a pillar of good business

The circular economy is not only a catchphrase. For business, it is an opportunity for an innovative leap towards a green future in which we save resources and minimize our carbon footprint. It is companies that are at the forefront of implementing solutions that allow a "closing of the loop". Thanks to this, we reduce the waste of valuable resources throughout the entire supply chain from the producer to the end customer. And we are talking not only about the valuable waste that can be recycled and recovered from it, but also about energy and water.

By focusing on recycling, reducing plastic and disposable packaging, shortening supply chains and developing renewable energy sources that bring us closer to energy self-sufficiency, the enormous potential of large international companies cannot be underestimated. Their role cannot be overestimated not only because they are able to develop new, innovative solutions for the environment, but also to initiate changes that will then translate into contractors and suppliers. The very scale of the operation is also important. Often even one small change, but implemented on a large scale, can save tons of valuable resources.

Scale for the environment

McDonald's in Poland includes over 460 restaurants run by local entrepreneurs. In 2019 alone, over 300 million guests placed orders in premises under the golden arches. With such a scale, every, even seemingly small, change has a real impact on the surroundings, including the environment. Their implementation takes time, but it is characterized by a comprehensive approach, taking into account both restaurants and suppliers.

“We are close to our business partners, which makes it easier for us to jointly implement innovative solutions for the environment,” says Anna Borys, director of corporate relations at McDonald's. Through cooperation with farmers and suppliers from Poland, the company has a positive impact not only on the economy, but also disseminates environmentally friendly technologies that are later used by other entities on the market.

Environmental thinking has been an integral part of McDonald's business for years. Since 2018, the company has been implementing a long-term strategy that involves climate action in many areas. One of the key issues is the replacement of plastic packaging with environmentally friendly equivalents and recycling of own packaging.

Changing the packaging is just the beginning

By 2025, McDonald's will only use certified, renewable or recyclable packaging. A major step towards meeting this commitment was the complete withdrawal of plastic straws from all restaurants in Poland. From January 2020, McDonald's guests can only use paper straws and paper McFlurry ice cream wrappers. Poland was the first market in Europe to apply the new technology on such a large scale and used a raw material that not only comes from certified sources, but is also recyclable.

At first glance, these changes may seem minor, but it's worth remembering that McDonald's uses 160 million straws a year, 23 million McFlurry ice cream cups and 3.5 million balloon sticks. In 2020 alone, this change translated into a reduction in the use of 90 tonnes of plastic - the equivalent of 1.5 million plastic bottles.

Straws are just the beginning. In 2021, the chain plans to replace plastic cutlery with their eco-friendly counterparts, which will reduce the amount of plastic used by over 200 tons per year, and change plastic packaging for salads.

Recycling in every restaurant

Recycling 100% of the packaging distributed to guests is another environmental strategy that McDonald's plans to implement by 2025. The company was one of the first to create the habit of restaurant guests segregating their own trash. Today, in almost every place in Poland, there are special bins that allow you to segregate waste into three fractions: plastic, paper and others. As much as 70% of restaurant waste is paper, which is processed into products that are returned to McDonald's restaurants.

Second life of waste

The abandonment of plastic, the exchange of packaging and the constant search for innovative solutions are steps towards a circular economy.

At the beginning of 2020, McDonald's established cooperation with the Polish company Miklan-Ryza - the European leader in the field of paper fiber recovery. The company uses environmentally friendly technology to reduce water consumption during recovery and help give waste a second life.

Each restaurant of the chain generates on average of approx. 2.5 tons of waste, which is a raw material for recycling. That's as much as 70% of all McDonald's waste that goes back into use as towels and toilet paper. Currently, this technology is used in over 100 restaurants, and by the end of 2021 it will be implemented in all premises with independent waste management.

“Business leaders operate on a large scale and influence their suppliers. Therefore, apart from the regulator and non-governmental organizations, they have the greatest impact on the economy and on how environmentally friendly solutions are implemented,”-Borys says. That is why companies such as McDonald's not only stay ahead of the legislative framework, but also go beyond their own business and influence the supply chain, driving the pace of environmental change.

Authors: McDonalds & TOGETAIR