6 forward-thinking moves McDonald's Canada is making with the planet in mind

McDonald's Canada customers using a reusable travel mug and paper straw
Photo via McDonald's Canada

There’s a reason McDonald’s has been such an enduring neighbourhood favourite around the globe. From the classic Big Mac® to those unrivaled fries and crowd-pleasing apple pies, the Golden Arches™ have always been a beacon for big flavour. They are also a beacon for change. From clever innovations in guest packaging to thoughtful partnerships, McDonald’s Canada continues to lead the way when it comes to sparking positive change.

Here’s a closer look at just a few of the efforts the beloved restaurant chain is making, as part of its ongoing ambition to support Canadian communities and the planet we share.

Parting with plastic

McDonald’s Canada said au revoir to the plastic straw this past December, along with other single-use plastics, namely plastic cutlery* and stir sticks. While this may seem like a minor difference when you’re sipping on your chocolate shake, moves like this help create an impact in the communities we share. Removing plastic straws, cutlery and stir sticks will eliminate approximately 700 tonnes of plastics from the Canadian system annually, with approximately 370 tonnes attributed to plastic straws alone†.

Making art, not waste

The Last Straw limited-edition trays made from upcycled McDonald's Canada plastic straws
Photo via McDonald's Canada

While the plastic straw may be a thing of the past, McDonald’s Canada found an ingenious way to repurpose some of its remaining single-use plastics. Following its transition from plastic to paper straws, McDonald’s Canada worked with The Rogerie, a Canadian-owned company that specializes in making high-quality products from post-consumer plastics, to upcycle a portion of its remaining plastic straws into limited-edition trays^, which then served as a blank canvas for beautiful works of arts. Designed by a diverse group of Canadian and Indigenous artists from across the country, these gorgeous pieces were designed to reflect the artists’ unique perspectives on sustainability and the environment.

Same great food, now in smarter packaging

McDonald's Canada McWrap packaging, made from recycled fibre for the planet
Photo via McDonald's Canada

Grabbing a bite on-the-go is better than ever, and McDonald’s Canada continues to work towards its global goal to source 100% of McDonald’s primary guest packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources by the end of 2025**. In 2019, McDonald’s Canada eliminated more than 1,300 tonnes of paper from the Canadian system by introducing McWrap® packaging, and 20% smaller, recycled-fibre napkins††.

But that’s not all. McDonald’s Canada is all about exploring potential opportunities for updated packaging that keeps the planet in mind. In January 2022, McDonald’s Canada conducted a test across four restaurants in the Greater Toronto Area, introducing a reusable McFlurry® mixing spindle. Instead of the traditional plastic spindle/spoon they have received since the 1990s, guests received a wooden spoon instead. By replacing the plastic spindle with the reusable spindle, the company expects to eliminate approximately 168 tonnes† of plastic resins from the Canadian system each year if implemented nationwide.

Designing even happier Happy Meals

Every kid’s face lights up when they see the Happy Meal® box, anticipating great eats paired with a fun toy or hot new book. Now parents can feel that same child-like excitement too, knowing that the toys, always designed to spark creativity and inspire play, are being redesigned with our planet in mind.

McDonald’s Canada is working towards its global ambition to drastically reduce the virgin fossil-fuel based plastics used in Happy Meal toys and offer Happy Meal toys made from more renewable, recycled, or certified materials by the end of 2025**.

Cutting back on coffee cup waste, not coffee taste

For many (let’s be honest, most) of us, the day doesn’t begin before our morning brew. McDonald’s Canada knows this too and is committed to helping you put your best foot forward from the moment you get up. In May 2022, McDonald’s completed a paper fibre reduction initiative for its McCafé hot cups. This reduction will eliminate nearly 700 tonnes of paper fibre from the Canadian system annually†††.

Of course, McCafé® Premium Roast Coffee and Tea (which is made with 100% ethically sourced Rainforest Alliance Certified Arabica beans and is roasted in Canada) tastes equally delicious in a travel mug, too. As of July, guests are being encouraged to bring in their own clean reusable travel cups for hot coffee and tea right up to the front counter when they order.

Pursuing forward-thinking partnerships

Photo via McDonald's Canada
Photo via McDonald's Canada

McDonald’s knows there are a ton of incredible Canadian companies that are similarly passionate about making changes, and it’s using that shared interest to cue up some cool partnerships!

For example, in May 2022, McDonald’s Canada, together with other brands, joined a six-month pilot program called ‘Return-It to Reuse It and Recycle It,’ managed by Encorp Pacific (better known as Return-It). This pilot is dual-focused, aiming to keep more single-use cups out of landfills by giving consumers a convenient place to recycle them, as well as introducing a reusable cup program, with consumers signing up to use reusable cups that will be washed and returned to retail locations. Both the single-use cups and the reusable cup program will be facilitated via the use of specialized collection bins, which are made from recycled plastics and have been made available in publicly available commercial as well as on-street locations.

For single-use cups, consumers empty out any liquids in one slot of the collection bins and place the cups and lids in separate slots. McDonald’s Canada is actively participating in this part of the pilot program. For reusable cups, Return-It will wash, sanitize, and return the cups collected from the public bins to each participating brand for redistribution to customers. McDonald’s is excited to explore this part of their partnership with Return-It in the future.

At McDonald’s, the future is golden. Visit McDonald's Canada to learn more about all the good the iconic brand is doing to support Canadian communities, so you can Love what’s next.

*Excluding McFlurry® spoons.

†Average based on 2018-2020 data.

^The upcycled trays resemble the trays guests see in McDonald’s restaurants, but are for display purposes only. †Based on 2019 data

††Based on 2019 data

†††Average based on 2019-2021 data.

**Refers to products that are used to package guest food on premises at McDonald’s restaurants, including containers, cups, wraps, bags for food, drink carriers, napkins and Happy Meal® boxes.