Little napkins among McDonald's ideas to cut trash

CHICAGO — CHICAGO -- McDonald's Corp., under continued criticism from environmentalists, announced yesterday more than 40 steps that it hopes will reduce its daily generation of 2 million pounds of garbage by 80 percent.

The company plans to trim the size of its paper napkins, replace ketchup packets with stainless steel dispensers and introduce refillable coffee mugs over the coming months.


Many of the steps will be trials rather than permanent programs. Trash from the nation's 8,500 McDonald's restaurants would be reduced by the four-fifths goal only if all the initiatives met expectations, the company said.

The latest plans follow by six months a McDonald's move to phase out the clamshell-shaped foam containers used for its sandwiches. The clamshells will be replaced by mid-May with quilted paper wrappings that, some critics say, are more difficult to recycle than the foam. McDonald's is also giving up its white bleached takeout bags in favor of brown unbleached recyclable bags. McDonald's developed its program with the advice of the Environmental Defense Fund of Washington. Richard Denison, a senior scientist with the fund, said that McDonald's program to reduce its waste was the largest he knew of.


"We were committed to being comprehensive, and we needed to look in every nook and cranny in the McDonald's operation," he added.

The company said it needed to use a range of techniques -- recycling, reuse and composting -- because it generated so many types of waste in such large amounts.

Among other measures, McDonald's plans to eliminate plastic wrappers for plastic knives, forks and spoons and do without dividers inside boxes used to ship cleaning supplies to restaurants. The corrugated plastic-lined boxes used to ship meat and poultry to restaurants will be replaced with washable, reusable containers.

McDonald's will also test reusable coffee filters, salad lids, breakfast platter lids, coffee mugs and bulk condiment dispensers. The company also will try replacing cardboard French-fry containers with paper bags and eliminating lids for cold drinks consumed at the restaurants. It also plans to try composting food and paper garbage. A pilot test involving nine McDonald's outlets in Maine began last month.

In the United States, more than 18 million people visit a McDonald's each day. One in every 15 working Americans gets his or her first job at McDonald's.