World-First: McDonald’s U.K. To Pilot Reusable Coffee Cup Scheme

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Last September, the world’s largest restaurant chain, McDonald’s, announced that it would pilot a reusable packaging scheme in the U.K. In keeping with its commitment, the fast-food giant has collaborated with zero-waste delivery platform Loop to launch a pilot returnable coffee cup scheme across six of its outlets in the U.K.

First zero-waste packaging solution

The new program is part of the collaboration with Loop, a circular packaging solution company founded in May 2019 by the Franco-U.S. waste management firm Terracycle. The reusable coffee cup scheme will cost GBP£1(approx. US$1.35) deposit.

As a reward for purchasing hot drinks in the returnable cup, customers will receive a 20p (approx. US$0.27) discount on the purchase. After the cup is used, customers can rent the cup for as long as they like and drop their cups at any of the specific Loop branded collection bins at the six participating restaurants. The cups will then be cleaned and sanitised to be reused again. 

In addition, to address the hygiene of the cups that customers might question, Loop has created a system along with hygiene solutions company EcoLab to ensure that all the cups are as safe as the single-use ones. There is scientific proof that shows that if basic hygiene is practised, reusable does not increase the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Customers that do so will further avail of a 20p discount on their next medium hot drink purchase. This means that after five returns and successive orders, customers will continue to receive this discount every time they choose a Loop cup.

If a customer forgets a cup on their next visit to the outlet, they can pay another £1 deposit and return both the cups next time.

In an earlier statement, the vice president of global sustainability at McDonald’s, Jenny McColloch said: “We’re on a journey to rethink how we package products to give customers options that reduce waste, maintain the highest safety standards, and enhance the McDonald’s experience they expect and enjoy.”

Read: Takeaway Food Packaging Makes Up Half Of Ocean Plastic Waste, Study Finds

Source: McDonald’s

Alternative materials

Circular design brand Circular&Co have created the cups out of previous single-use coffee cups.

They further include engineered polypropylene (PP) plastic for durability, as well as making it easier to be cleaned for use again. The quantity of plastic, however, has been reduced by incorporating recycled paper cup material in the outer insulation layer.

After the reusable cups reach the end-of-life cycle, they are recycled and the material is used to develop the next batch of reusable cups.

Founder and CEO of TerraCycle and Loop, Tom Szaky said: “This groundbreaking partnership with McDonald’s enables Loop to greatly expand its reach by bringing convenient reusable packaging options to the foodservice industry. The partnership paves the way for reusables to become an accessible option for consumers as they enjoy their meal on the go.”

Read: 8 Circular Packaging Companies To Watch In The Race To Close The Waste Loop

Tackling plastic pollution

McDonald’s has also removed plastic Happy Meal toys, plastic straws, McFlurry lids, and salad boxes and switched to “more sustainable options”. In doing so, the fast-food giant claims it has saved over 4000 tonnes of plastic each year.

In addition, nearly 90% of its packaging comes from recycled or renewable sources, and it aims to convert all its plastic packaging to fully recyclable or compostable ones.

Mcdonald’s rival Burger King has also joined forces with Loop to expand its reusables testing program for items like the Whopper and drinks to cities like Paris and London. 

Apart from fast-food chains, supermarket Aeon collaborated with Loop to sell its products in reusable packaging to tackle Japan’s plastic waste crisis, which ranks second in the world in terms of individual plastic use. In the U.K., through Loop, supermarket giant Tesco launched a new dedicated website through which customers can purchase 150 products in refillable containers.

Lead image courtesy of McDonald’s.


  • Tanuvi Joe

    Born and bred in India and dedicated to the cause of sustainability, Tanuvi Joe believes in the power of storytelling. Through her travels and conversations with people, she raises awareness and provides her readers with innovative ways to align themselves towards a kinder way of living that does more good than harm to the planet. Tanuvi has a background in Journalism, Tourism, and Sustainability, and in her free time, this plant parent surrounds herself with books and rants away on her blog Ruffling Wings.

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