A big change is coming to McDonald’s restaurants in the United Kingdom, one that could shift the way hungry patrons enjoy salads, hotcakes, and more. In the ongoing quest to become more eco-friendly, the restaurant’s chains in the UK are breaking up with plastic cutlery. This shift will remove over 850 metric tons (or 1.88 million pounds) from the company’s supply chain, McDonald’s UK wrote on Twitter.
According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, plastic that comes from restaurants like McDonald’s is a major contributing factor to the around 20 million metric tons of plastic that finds its way into the environment each year.
Instead of plastic, McDonald’s UK will begin introducing paper-based cutlery to serve with classic desserts like its iconic McFlurry (via Twitter). The paper cutlery is fully recyclable and compostable, and all of McDonald’s packaging will be as well by 2024, according to the Evening Standard.
This change is a part of the company’s Plan for Change initiative, which also includes goals like restaurant furniture being made with recycled or certified materials by 2023 and all restaurants and offices reaching net-zero emissions by 2030.
Well-intentioned opponents to the evolution of McDonald’s cutlery might be surprised to find that simply tossing your plastic forks into the recycling bin does not make a dent in the larger issue of plastic pollution.
According to Science.org, as of 2015, only about 9% of the plastic ever created has actually been recycled. Science.org adds that recycling plastic only delays its inevitable disposal rather than prevents it altogether. In addition, the site estimates that about 60% of all plastics made have, over time, simply been thrown away and now reside in either landfills or in nature. That’s bad news for a non-biodegradable resource.
While there are no immediate plans to make the same cutlery change in the United States, according to a recent McDonald’s press release, the company does plan to make all Happy Meal toys more sustainable worldwide by 2025. This change will promote the use of renewable and recyclable materials in Happy Meal toys, with a plan to reduce the use of fossil fuel-made plastic in the toys by 90% from 2018 numbers.