Fast food giant McDonald's is speeding up its move to minimise the use of plastic in its restaurants in Europe, where legislation on single-use items is becoming increasingly restrictive.
The US burger behemoth recently announced the introduction of new packaging in all its restaurants in Europe by the end of 2020 for the McFlurry, an ice cream dessert currently served in a disposable cup with a thick plastic lid.
The new packaging does away with the need for the lid, McDonald's says, estimating that the change will save more than 1,200 tonnes of plastic a year in Europe.
The European Union is implementing stronger legislation to try to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills, with a ban on around a dozen non-recyclable items including drinks straws set to come into force in 2021.
Other measures from McDonald's include replacing plastic lids on drinks with a fibre-based alternative in France, a key European market for the company, saving some 1,100 tonnes of plastic per year.
“We have a goal to have all of our packaging from renewable resources by 2025, and also a goal to recycle in every single one of our 37,000 restaurants around the globe by 2025,” said McDonald's vice president for sustainability Keith Kenny.
Plastic is used in 12 percent of McDonald's packaging in Europe, the company says, with 60 percent of restaurants in the eight biggest markets offering customer recycling facilities.
In the UK, the company is testing a scheme in some restaurants to let customers return used Happy Meal toys.
“We know that perhaps we're going to market with imperfect solutions, but our customers will give us credit for that and we continue to develop and improve them as we learn more and we get customers' feedback and we improve the process,” Kenny said.
Major corporations, often criticised by campaigners for putting profit before the environment, are trying to respond to growing pressure from consumers for more responsible practices.
Food and cosmetics giant Unilever announced last month that it will cut its use of new plastic in packaging by half by 2025, acknowledging that the move was partly aimed at young, more environmentally conscious customers.
In May 2017 the campaign group Zero Waste France published a report criticising McDonald's approach to waste.
Featured image: Alastair Pike / AFP