MomActivism: Reply from McDonald's Canada

As some of you may recall, two weeks ago I took my children to McDonald's for a Happy Meal. While my children ate their lunch and played with their collectible toys, I looked at the packaging and was surprised by how much of it was actually post-consumer recycled paper. You might even say that I was impressed until I realized that there were no recycling bins. I went home and called the corporation to find out why.

Last week, the McDonald's Canada Communications Manager, Eastern Region, returned my call. I explained to him briefly that I was a blogger who was curious about why there were no recycling bins at any of the McDonald's restaurants. He addressed this issue by stating just how much recycling was actually being done behind the counter. I told him that I was aware of that already (See MomActivism: McDonald's Canada), but that I was interested in the recycling that we could actually see.

"The problem," he said, "is that we have little control over what happens on the other side of the counter, and there are issues of contamination."

Contamination is always an issue raised with recycling. As soon as an item, such as paper or plastic is soiled, it loses it's recycling value.

"The plastic can still be washed," I said, "And soiled paper can still be composted," But the manager continued to explain that on the employee side of the counter, McDonald's can enforce strict rules to ensure that recycling efforts are maximized, which is not the case on the consumer side of the counter. He then went on to describe the new "green" McDonald's built to LEED specifications in Beauport, Quebec. Although impressive, I was more interested in getting an answer to my initial question.

I also asked the Communications Manager about the composting pilot projects producing both compost and energy that were mentioned on the Mcdonald's Canada website. I was interested where these projects were and when they had started. He said that he didn't have those details on hand, but he directed me to a website where McDonald's environmental projects around the world were listed. He also mentioned McDonald's "one meal, one napkin" campaign to reduce the number of napkins used, and the fact that the napkins were no longer bleached. I responded that I had indeed noticed this.

I then asked him about McDonald's role in reforestation in Canada. After all, according to McDonald's Global Best Of Green 2009 report, over 85% of McDonald's packaging is made from paper or paper fibres.The resource is renewable, but someone still had to "renew" it. The response was that paper was used because it was biodegradable, and not all municipalities have the same composting and recycling capabilities. This is true, and I know this from the research I did into the Tim Horton's paper cup, but I was interested in reforestation efforts in Canada.

The Communications Manager directed me again to the website with the McDonald's environmental projects around the world.

Before saying good-bye, I rephrased my original question,
"You must understand that my children have to recycle everywhere, at home, at school, at grandma's, yet at McDonald's, they don't have to. That's sending the wrong kind of message. So what is your answer regarding recycling bins at McDonald's?"

His answer, "We're working on it."

McDonald's Global Environmental Website

Now, I perused the McDonald's Environmental website and the Global Best of Green Report 2009 for at least an hour and found nothing on McDonald's reforestation or composting pilot projects in Canada. I did read about the green McDonalds being built to LEED specifications, and the fact that McDonald's napkins and take-out bags are no longer bleached white. Where have I heard that before?

What I found most interesting was that in Brazil, Germany, Switzerland and Japan, they have recycling sorting bins! In fact, in Germany, they have attained a 90%* recycling rate at their McDonald's restaurants by using a system of colour codes. Wow, sounds like they have a viable solution right there.

You might also want to bear in mind that the McDonald's Corporation reported $1.22 billion in profits last year. They have the means to support recycling and show some social responsibility by modeling environmentally friendly behaviour.

Sources:
Global Best of Green 2009: Building a Better Business Through Effective Environmental Practices Throughout the World
*pg. 16 of above document. It starts at "McDonald's is often viewed as generating a lot of waste."
About McDonalds
McDonald's Canada
Globe and Mail

Previous posts:
Sad Ending to An Otherwise Happy Meal
MomActivism: McDonald's Canada

Related posts:
Mom Activism: Raising Retail Awareness about Eco-Friendly Packaging
Plastics: of the 3Rs Your Best Bet is to REDUCE
Part 1: Tipping Point of Tim Hortons Paper Cup
Part 2: Tipping Point of Tim Hortons Paper Cup
Part 3: Coming to Grips With Change
Part 4: Success is Not All Roses
Tim Hortons: Some Freshly Baked Environmental Solutions

3 comments:

Maryann | February 17, 2010 at 4:54 PM

This is a total cop-out on McDonalds' part. When we visited Nova Scotia two summers ago, the McDonalds we went to had recycling AND composting bins, as does just about every other restaurant in that province, and no one seemed to have a problem using them.

The Maritimes are far more advanced than we are when it comes to composting and recycling. Moncton, for instance, has had curbside recycling pickup for more than a decade, and PEI has strict rules EVERYWHERE about putting the right kind of waste in the right kind of receptacle, because they just don't have the room for landfill.

So unless Quebecers are somehow recycling-challenged (and I don't think we are), then I fail to see why a multiple-bin system wouldn't work in a McDonalds here as well as it does in the Maritimes. It's a question of what people are used to. It took me a long time to remember to bring along my reusable shopping bags, but I finally got into the habit (well, okay, most of the time). Same goes for garbage, which is what this guy's response was!

AKAmamma | February 17, 2010 at 6:09 PM

I'm so happy that the Atlantic provinces have embraced recycling everywhere. I've heard that the entire population of Nova Scotia has a recycling service.

It's true. It is a matter of habit that most of us have already acquired.

BTW, I have heard back from the McDonald's Communications Manager and apparently there is one community in Quebec, Lac M├ęgantic, where there is a composting program and McDonald's is a participant. But since the company website said "composting pilot projects." I'd need another project, preferably one that produced "energy."

Thanks for this extra information about McDonald's in the maritimes.

Maryann | February 18, 2010 at 10:40 AM

I meant to say "Moncton has had curbside COMPOSTING pickup for more than a decade." We've had recycling pickup for longer than that, too. Oops!

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