- McDonald's Canada is opening two "Green Concept Restaurants" in London, Ontario, and Vancouver, British Columbia, according to a company release.
- The locations, which will serve as incubators for new packaging options and recycling initiatives, are part of the company's push to shrink its environmental footprint and source 100% of fiber-based packaging from recycled or certified sustainable materials by 2020.
- The locations will test recyclable lids made from wood fiber and "re-pulpable" cups for cold beverages — both firsts for Canadian quick service restaurants (QSRs) — as well as wooden cutlery, wooden stir sticks and paper straws. Polystyrene foam has also been eliminated from items, and How2Recycle labels will be added to multiple products.
McDonald's move toward sustainable packaging is far from groundbreaking, but when the Golden Arches throws its brand behind a trend, it typically signals a sea change for the QSR segment.
Starbucks has been the trailblazer in this arena, most recently launching a reusable cup pilot in the London Gatwick Airport. Customers can choose between shelling out a six-cent surcharge for a standard disposable cup or a free reusable cup. According to the company, even if only 250 diners choose the latter, it could save more than 7,000 disposable cups. Dunkin' has also pledged to nix polystyrene foam cups from its 9,000 stores by the end of 2019, opting instead to supply double-walled paper cups made with certified sustainable materials.
These initiatives cater to growing consumer interest in eco-friendly lifestyles, but they're also financially savvy moves. Forty-five percent of Americans consider sustainability when picking a fast food restaurant, and 35% of survey respondents would pay up to 10% more for food sold in sustainable materials, according to Asia Pulp & Paper.
Legal pressure from municipalities and states to shift to sustainable packaging could also encourage more brands to make the change — although it's unclear how quickly this kind of legislation will crawl across the rest of the U.S. If McDonald's Canada's "Green Concept" stores perform well, it's possible the QSR giant will expand the new products to the American market.
It may be wise to double down on green packaging before it becomes as buzzy a consumer concern as vegan options or animal welfare. Yelp is piloting a sustainability rating on its platform that asks users to score businesses based on their environmental footprint. Metrics used include whether or not the retailer has plastic straws and whether it offers compostable packaging or reusable cup discounts.