A Reddit user called out McDonald’s for a misleading recycling claim after it made a deceptive product swap.
Containers and packaging account for 23% of the waste in United States landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and the fast food industry is responsible for 88% of the world’s coastline litter, a 2021 study showed.
“Plastic straws, plastic bags, and expanded polystyrene foam cups and containers can be easily eliminated or replaced with materials that are less harmful to species and our environment,” said Dianna Cohen, CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition. “It is critical that global Fast Food companies enact good plastic practices consistently across the world because many countries do not have adequate waste management systems, and plastic pollution does not stop at country or state borders.”
Cups, straws, and other food and beverage packaging in the world’s oceans and other bodies of water are harming and killing marine life and threatening human health. The pollution is so prevalent that even bottled water contains microplastics.
Dieline reported in 2020 that McDonald’s “may have inspired the normalization and accepted use of single-use plastic.” Theresa Christine Johnson noted that for all the changes consumers can make, corporations must stop producing and promoting the use of so many plastics.
McDonald’s may be working toward sourcing 100% of its primary packaging from renewable, recycled, or certified materials, but it has a long way to go. In addition to this plastic-for-paper swap with a hidden (and bigger) paper-for-plastic switch, the company has made confounding decisions with “reusable” McFlurry spindles and packaged apple slices.
It also took more than 30 years to get rid of styrofoam, even insisting it aerated soil, Johnson detailed.
“Recycling is also a fake solution,” one commenter said. “Almost none of the plastic we use can actually be recycled and even if it can be it’s much more expensive, inefficient, and ‘dirtier’ than just making more. Not using it at all is the only real way to avoid it ending up in a landfill eventually.”
Another wrote, “Plastic bags and straws are horrible because they last forever and at best break down into microplastics.”
The user noted a “real solution” would be for McDonald’s to use glass or fill personal thermoses instead of handing everyone a cup — plastic or not.
“The problem isn’t so much with the materials we use as it is with the entire disposable and replaceable mindset of our society,” they continued. “The fact computer and phone companies come out with new products every 6 months or quarter is another great example of business models that need to change, and now.”
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